Freddy Purnell donned a red and white “Make America Gay Again” hat as he spoke from the steps of Old Main on Wednesday.
The freshman biology major with a contagious smile described himself as the kid people hear coming before they see him.
But it wasn’t always that way, growing up in a conservative black family, he said.
He had been hurt, used and abused trying to find someone to accept him for who he is, Purnell said. Being a part of the Penn State LGBTQA community has helped him find acceptance and be himself.
He’s been doing tons of “gay stuff” lately, he said, adding that he’s going to try drag soon.
“It’s just been lit,” he said.
The group of students and community members he was speaking to were there for a rally to celebrate Pride Week at Penn State.
Sonya Wilmoth, assistant director at the LGBTQA Student Resource Center, kicked off the rally.
The center wants students to be able to talk about what it means to them to be a part of the LGBTQA community, Wilmoth said.
Many of the students who spoke at the rally — attended by about 75 people — said being at Penn State was the first time they felt like they were part of a community and attributed that, at least in part, to the resource center.
Maggie Brock, a senior studying criminology, said she realized she liked girls in middle school, but she thought she would be OK keeping that to herself.
During her sophomore year at Penn State, someone “dragged” her to the resource center, but now they have to kick her out at night, she said.
“Living openly is just so much different,” Brock said.
She said when she came out to her family they were supportive and accepting, but she never could have done it without the LGBTQA community at Penn State.
Penn State Pride Week
▪ OUT and Allies Pride: Conversation and Networking on Corporate Diversity, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Smeal Atrium
▪ Pride March, noon, start at Boucke Building steps
▪ Stand for State Bias Workshop, 1:30-3:30 p.m., 232 HUB-Robeson Center
▪ Pride Shabbat, 6:30 p.m., 118 Pasquerilla Center
▪ School of Theatre Gay Prom, 9 p.m., 119 Theatre Building
▪ Receiving with Thanksgiving, 3:30 p.m., Frizzell Room, Pasquerilla Spiritual Center