UNE community members gather with a UNE Pride banner in Monument Square in Portland

UNE takes LGBTQ+ pride to the streets of downtown Portland

Dozens from the UNE community marched in support of LGBTQ+ rights at the annual Portland Pride parade

The temperature was a brisk 50 degrees for mid-June, and the chance of rain was 100%, but that didn’t stop dozens of University of New England students, professors, and administrators from joining thousands in marching in support of LGBTQ+ rights at the annual Pride Portland parade, held on Saturday, June 17.

The annual march and festival, along with several affiliated events, celebrates and honors the accomplishments of the LGBTQ+ movement, seeks to raise awareness of ongoing struggles about and within the community, and aims to foster an environment of inclusivity, accessibility, and solidarity.

More than 40 members of the UNE community gathered in downtown Portland to walk alongside participants from local community organizations, media groups, churches, and queer affiliations. They were among scores of people who came together in support of the parade’s 2023 theme “Together With Pride.”

UNE community members gather with a UNE Pride banner in Monument Square in Portland
UNE community members march up Congress Street
UNE community members gather in Monument Square surrounded by bubbles
Andrea Paredes holds a Pride flag during the march
Two woman grasp hands at the parade

Andrea Paredes, M.Ed., director of Intercultural Student Engagement at UNE, said the University community’s commitment to the cause — the rain, the cold, and the commute notwithstanding — is a direct reflection of its pledge toward fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for all.

“Everything we do we are doing for the betterment of society as a whole,” she remarked. “We see that LGBTQ+ rights and, specifically, transgender rights are being targeted, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that we marched in solidarity with those causes.”

As a queer person herself, she said, Paredes was warmed by the turnout.

“The energy that day was electric,” she said. “From members of the Board of Trustees to professional staff and faculty, students, and alumni, we all showed up for our people, and it was so heartwarming to be in community with each other.”

Seynt Jiro Sahagun (D.O., ’26), a second-year student in UNE’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, didn’t let the weather deter him from representing his community along with his classmates. As vice president of UNE COM’s chapter of the Medical Student Pride Alliance, Sahagun said the “contagious enthusiasm” of all involved in the march was inspiring.

“Marching in the parade with the club and other people from UNE, especially staff members and faculty, reminded me of the strong passion that our small community has toward LGBTQ+ health,” he reflected. “It meant a lot to me to be able to freely march and celebrate with those who will be working with me in my career as a future physician.”

Assistant Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Shannon Zlotkowski and company display UNE-branded pride merch, including a bandana
A UNE student holds a Pride flag amid many others from the UNE community
Three students pose for a photo
UNE members enjoy the pre-parade festivities
A woman's shirt reads "What a Beautiful Day to Respect Other People's Pronouns"

Paredes adds that there is still work to be done in the fight for equality, highlighting that, in the first six months of 2023, nearly 600 anti-transgender bills have been introduced and more than 80 have been passed. In times such as these, Sahagun said, Pride serves as more than just a celebration.

“Pride is an important reminder that there is still plenty of work to be done toward achieving better equity and health access for the LGBTQ+ community,” he stated.

“UNE's presence in the parade signified that there are students, faculty, and staff here who care about the issues troubling sexual and gender minorities,” Sahagun added. “Speaking for UNE COM, it is important for UNE and its students to recognize this and do their part as future health care professionals.”