By Stephanie Laffin
I met Shane Windmeyer, co-founder and executive director of Campus Pride while I was working at the It Gets Better Project. Shane and I originally connected via email and began regularly emailing and talking on the phone. We were both working to better the LGBTQ youth community and he quickly became a great mentor and friend, guiding me to resources, organizations and other leaders within the LGBTQ community.
We finally met in person at the LGBTQ Sports Summit in June 2012 that was held at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Shane and I sat together in work sessions, walked to Voodoo Doughnuts, marched in the Portland Pride Parade with Ben Cohen and Alison Doerfler and got to know each other better.
As Shane and I bonded in Portland, I learned that he’d written and edited books on LGBTQ college and university Greek life, an identity and passion that he includes in his work. We talked about our families, and Shane spoke about being born on a reservation, his American Indian identity, and being a first generation college student. At Emporia State University Shane graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communications and went on to receive his master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs at Indiana University.
While in Portland, Shane invited me to attend Camp Pride, Campus Pride’s annual summer leadership institute for college and university students. We kept talking and the team at the It Gets Better Project agreed that I should attend camp. I had pitched the idea of attending Camp Pride by saying, “As a youth-serving organization, shouldn’t we be asking LGBTQ-identified young people what they want? Isn’t the best way to do that by spending time with them?”
Camp Pride was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I arrived on the campus of Vanderbilt University and met LGBTQ young people, student leaders and advisors who were all participating in camp. Shane greeted me warmly with a hug, introduced me to everyone and whispered, “Don’t call them ‘kids.’ Students is OK but they’re college students, not kids.” I paused for a moment and mulled this over. Shane was right. These were not kids, there was no need for a term that would put us in a hierarchical relationship. We were all on even footing.
Throughout the week of Camp Pride, Shane’s warmth and guidance was everywhere. I saw his leadership shine through in the ways he interacted with the team of advisors and leaders and how he worked with students. He told stories about his experience being out and LGBT-identified in the Midwest, his family and traveling to different campuses teaching workshops on education, language, inclusion and diversity around LGBT students.
As camp was ending I said to Shane, “I can come back next year, right?” The community that Shane and the leadership team at Camp Pride built was one I wanted to belong to, be part of and return to. I saw the students who had come to camp blossom. At the beginning of camp some students had been shy—their heads down, shoulders turned in. By the end of the week students held their heads high and their shoulders back. Their self-realization, pride and new-found sense of self was terrific to watch. I wanted to be like them.
So much of Shane’s Campus Pride work is around community building, encouraging young leaders and bettering college campus life for LGBTQ-identified students. Campus Pride has worked to develop indexes for students who want to research and learn more about the LGBTQ on-campus climate at colleges and universities. The Campus Pride Index, Campus Pride Sports Index and Trans Policy Clearinghouse utilize data on inclusion, policies, practice and programs to evaluate college campus environments for LGBTQ students.
The Campus Pride team has expanded the reach of the organization, supporting LGBTQ-identified students on a worldwide level through one-on-one efforts, resource development, webinars and workshops. It’s been terrific to hear Shane talk about his work, watch the work of Campus Pride in action and hear folks say, “I wish I’d had these resources when I was applying to college; it would have made such a difference in my college experience.”
Just as he does with students, Shane has always encouraged me to find my own voice and truth. Because of Shane, his commitment to LGBTQ young people, the work he does and the love he shares, so many of us are living authentic lives. For more information on Campus Pride, go to www.campuspride.org.
Photo courtesy of Campus Pride
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