Tag Archives: CSUN Pride Center

The Sounds of the Rainbow

Music is considered to be the universal language. People listen to music for many different reasons, but it makes an impact on most. Musicians have taken that influence into consideration, and many now use their music as a form of activism.

“It is a really powerful way to get that message across,” said Rudy Vasquez, CSUN alumnus and trumpet player for Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles. “….[We have the ability to] to inform people, because they are not only being informed, they feel what you feel.”

Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles is likely the very first openly LGTBQ mariachi in history. Its members are trying to use their music to break barriers in the music world. The group provides a safe haven for mariachi musicians identifying with the LGTBQ community who want to perform traditional Mexican regional music.

Traditionally mariachis are male dominated and considered to have a machismo identity, with male chauvinistic tendencies. Therefore a mariachi is not a place where someone of the LGTBQ community would feel comfortable or free be themselves.

“We needed a place where we were free from bullying, being made fun of, being talked about behind our backs, and [suffering] discrimination,” said Carlos Samaniego, director of Mariachi Arcoiris, “different type of things that all of us, unfortunately, have suffered.”

“The group also has members who are straight and considered allies,” Vasquez said. “It’s great to see they could play comfortably with us, and know that about us and they are not going to feel that their masculinity is being threatened or anything. It’s like helping out or being a part of any other mariachi. They go in there and play with no reservations.”

Females have been a part of the mariachi world since 1903, when the first documented female mariachi musician, Rosa Quirino, played in a mariachi band, but to some it is still uncommon to think of female mariachis. The first all-female group was the Las Adelitas formed in 1948, which was directed by a male. Today only about thirty all-female mariachi perform in the United States.

Mariachi Arcoiris welcomes women, and is proud to have the first transgender female in mariachi history, Natalia Melendez, as their violinist.

“There were a lot of obstacles I had to go through to be comfortable,” Melendez said. “I never was expecting to be in a leadership role to the world, and I’ve been blessed with that; I’ve been given this kind of responsibility through everything that I’ve done.”

In 2015, gay marriage became legal throughout the United States, demonstrating that times are changing for the LGTBQ community.

“Your generation is more flexible, adaptable and open, and not as concerned about rigid boundaries about sexuality and gender,” CSUN Communication Studies Professor Kathryn Sorrells said. “I think those kind of [musical] performances are shifting [perceptions] for people in ways that I think are really helpful. Not everywhere, not all the time, but certain spaces are more open.”

Despite these advances ,the LGTBQ community is uncertain of its future under the Trump administration, and continues to experience discrimination such as harassment, misgendered pronouns, other forms of hate speech, and exclusion from basic public accommodations and many other areas in society.

But with artists and groups such as Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, who use music as a tool to advocate for a change, many say there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

“Music and protest are going to continue to come together in really powerful and creative ways in the next decade,” Sorrells said.

Moderator: Julie Nesbitt

Producers: Amber Partida and Abril Preciado

Anchor: Shelby Charlene

Social Media Editors: Malcolm Finney and Curtis Poindexter

Reporters: Yesenia Burgara, Shelby Charlene, Malcolm Finney, Julie Nesbitt, Amber Partida, Curtis Poindexter and Abril Preciado

Comments Off on The Sounds of the Rainbow

Breaking the Bathroom Boundaries

CSUN’s University Student Union took some steps forward recently, in terms of equality and inclusion, by installing two gender-inclusive restrooms in the Oasis Wellness Center.  Now some students are saying it is not enough.

The restrooms serve as the only gender-inclusive restrooms on a campus with a student population of over 40,000.

“I didn’t even know we had gender inclusive restrooms at the Oasis Center until last week,” said Alex Soto, president of Gamma Rho Lambda. “Having gender-inclusive bathrooms really helps me feel better about my self-esteem and my identity.”

To some, the idea of going into a gendered bathroom can be intimidating. The Williams Institute found that 70 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming respondents experienced harassment at least once while using public restrooms.

“So many times I go into the female restroom, and it’s like ‘What are you?’” Soto said. “You know, ‘What kind of creature are you?’ It almost seems that way. I don’t fit into either binary.”

Soto said implementing more gender-inclusive restrooms throughout all 29 on-campus buildings would alleviate the stress felt by many in the trans community.

“It’s about comfort and personal safety,” said Nia Clark, a coordinator at Lifeworks at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “A lot of trans folks don’t feel comfortable using certain bathrooms. Wouldn’t it be great to use a bathroom where you don’t have to worry about how you look to others?”

Clark said stereotypes often have a lot to do with the perception of who should and shouldn’t be in particular bathrooms.

“There is a negative stereotype about me coming into the restrooms, and doing inappropriate things with my body, or exploiting a young person, or being exploitive toward other women, and I think there’s this misconception right there: that when we’re in there, we are there to do more than go to the bathroom,” Clark said. “We use the bathroom for the same reasons everyone else uses the bathroom, and I think once people are able to actually get some knowledge about the community, they will understand why it is a necessity to have that bathroom.”

In August 2013, California Assembly Bill 1266 made it a state law  “that a pupil be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

“This actually stipulates that legally young people, when attending school or in a school setting, have an actual right, a legal right, to have affirming spaces regardless of their gender identity or expression,” Clark said.

Educating people about the lives of the LGBTQ and trans community will make a difference in their mindset and eventually the policies surrounding large organizations.

“When I train people, what I say to them is … [to compare this issue to their] … college experience,” Clark said. “When young people attend school and don’t necessarily know what they want to study, there is a category for that: it would be ‘undecided’ or ‘general studies’.  So academia has an understanding that young people don’t necessarily fit into one category, or don’t necessarily know what’s going to work for them. And if the university can provide and accommodate for that, why can’t we do the same for where they use the bathroom?”

Freddie Sanchez, assistant director for the Resource Center at the University Student Union, said the USU is looking at what students need in order to be successful, and restrooms are part of that.

“I think we…have an ability to continue to work with our students to see what the needs are,” said Sanchez. “If we need additional gender inclusive restrooms and different facilities, that’s something that we would look towards to sort of change and implement, but there’s a process.”

Moderator: Jamie Perez

Anchor: Juaneeq Elliott

Producer: Jamie Perez

Social Media Editors: Ala Errebhi and Caitlin Pieh

Reporters: Noemi Barajas, Halie Cook, Juaneeq Elliot, Jamie Perez and Nicholas Seaman

Comments Off on Breaking the Bathroom Boundaries

Fear of the Unknown: Is Unconditional Love Really Unconditional?

“’Coming out’ is often characterized as an invariant, universal progression from initial unawareness and confusion to eventual identity, pride and synthesis,” according to the LGBT Casebook.

Teens who identify as lesbian, gay or bi-sexual are four times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers according to a 2011 survey done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“One of the factors to consider is the level of rejection that one may face from their family, faith, etc,” said CSUN Professor of Social Work, Mark Abelson.

With coming out of the closet being such a traumatic experience for many, it can cause people to stay in their comfort zone and avoid revealing who they really are.

“When I came out at sixteen as transgender, I was in foster care,” Lifeworks Mentoring Coordinator Nia Clark said. “When I told my adoptive mother that I wanted to live full time as a woman, I was taken to court and she rescinded guardianship of me.”

With pop-culture somewhat desensitizing kids, it could, in a way, make things more difficult for those who really are going through a struggle to come out.

“Young people don’t know what they are saying,” said CSUN Pride Center Coordinator Sarina Loeb. “Seeing things like that in music and pop-culture I think also it has influence.”

“When you are not facing a certain type of oppression it’s easier for you to overlook when you are oppressing someone else,” Clark said. “So when you hear things like ‘that’s so gay’ think of the subtext of that. That ‘that’s so gay’ are you equating that word with stupid, unintelligent, boring and if you were in front of someone who was gay would you really describe them as stupid or boring or unintelligent or dumb.”

With religion playing a great role in any people’s lives and religious institutions having such anti-LGBT tendencies, it can be something difficult to overcome.

“I don’t normally try to change someone’s belief, but everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” Loeb said.

For those who are coming out, however, resources are available to help. Lifeworks, at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, offers many mentoring programs to help those in the LGBT community throughout the Los Angeles area. Experts say people considering whether or not to come out need to evaluate their whole situation before coming out.

“What will your reaction be at home? Will your parents be supportive or not? And ask ‘what if they are not supportive?’ What could happen to you?” Abelson said.

“You have the inalienable right to be yourself,” Clark said, “and in that you have a responsibility to yourself to accept you wherever you are at, and that’s all that’s important. Everyone else, that’s a lot of noise.”


Moderator: Rosanna Siracusa

Producer: AJ Romero

Anchor: Kelly Hernandez

Reporters: Cyndy Alvarado, Evan Mederos and Sharon Shin

Social Media Editor: Precious Allen

Comments Off on Fear of the Unknown: Is Unconditional Love Really Unconditional?