CSUB is all in for OUTober

Carlos Hernandez

Carlos Hernandez, Digital Content Producer

OUTober has traditionally been a week-long celebration of the LGBTQ+ community at CSU Bakersfield. This year that celebration has transitioned to a month of activities and events. Dr. Bre Evans-Santiago, Department Chair of Teachers Education and co-advisor of the LGBTQ+ Network, shared her excitement at the network’s first in-person meet ‘n’ greet since the transition to distance learning.

“It makes it a lot of fun for students to want to come and feel welcomed and we open our arms to anyone,” said Evans-Santiago.

The significance of OUTober goes beyond social events and deeply resonates on a personal level with students, staff, and faculty of CSUB. Bryan Castilla, who is pursuing a Master of science in psychology at CSUB shares the value of OUTober as someone with a variety of lived experiences.

“Even till this day I still hear derogatory words towards me, so being able to express yourself, be who you are, and make a positive impact is the whole meaning of this month,” said Castilla.

The meaning of this month that Castilla gives voice to is particularly amplified in its importance among communities with a complex history of conservative values, like Bakersfield.

For context, Congressman, House Minority Leader, and CSUB Alumnus Kevin McCarthy supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied recognition of same-sex marriages and federal benefits heterosexual couples receive. The Act was ruled unenforceable by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015.

This history is one of the challenges the local LGBTQ+ community has faced in pursuit of belonging and freedom of expression. CSUB student, Lynna Ha, shares her perspective as a Youth Counselor at The Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity (The Center), a nonprofit organization serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgender community in Kern County.

“I feel like especially living in Kern County, it’s kind of hard to want to find out who you are and be yourself… Now in 2021, it’s more free and we’re able to come out and be who we are,” said Ha.

However, Bakersfield’s conservative leanings are actually one of the reasons Castilla chose to pursue his master’s degree at CSUB after completing his undergraduate degree at California State University, Los Angeles.

“I got accepted into three schools, most LA based and this school, which is a little bit more conservative based. One of my supervisors told me, ‘go where you feel you’re needed’ and I feel like this is where I belong,” said Castilla.

The LGBTQ+ Networks meet ‘n’ greet was one of many events sponsored by the club for OUTober. Students can join the club for more information, resources, and peer support via Runnersync, CSUB’s organizational website for students, staff, and faculty to stay up to date with campus events, clubs, and organizations.

“Even during a pandemic, we want people to know that we are here to support, love, and provide resources you may need,” said Evans-Santiago.

Castilla shares those sentiments and encourages all students to participate in OUTober and welcomes anyone who may be hesitant to feel free to express who they are, in the safe environment of CSUB.

“I’m queer, here, and with an open ear,” Castilla confidently states.