Usually, the back-and-forth “Texas! Fight!” chant can be heard echoing the stadium during a football game. But this weekend, it will ring across Congress Avenue.
This Saturday, Aug. 27, the Texas Exes Pride Alumni Network will join the Gender and Sexuality Center, Pride and Equity Faculty Staff Association, Texas Queer Students Alliance and members of the Dell Medical School to march in the 26th annual Pride Parade, concluding Pride week in Austin. The procession begins at the Capitol at 8 p.m.
The Pride Alumni Network organizes social events in and around Austin, such as Lavender graduation, an additional ceremony for LGBT students and their families, or speed dating and happy hour events in cities such as Houston and Dallas.
Ultimately, Dennis said the network exists to remind students that being a Longhorn doesn’t end after graduation.
“There is an entire network at the Texas Exes dedicated to keeping [former LGBT students] connected to the University,” he said.
To wrap up a week of LGBT celebrations, over 120 groups will march through the Warehouse District on Fourth Street to Republic Square Park.
“We are lucky in Austin that people are welcoming and supportive of all types of people, but it is still important to celebrate our differences,” said Austin Dennis, chair of Texas Exes Pride Alumni Network.
In years past, Dennis said wide-eyed freshman marched alongside 50-year-old alumni. He said everyone marching, despite their age or background, is connected through UT.
UT alumnus Nolan Hicks didn’t march in last year’s parade but hopes to become more involved in the gay community, namely by marching in this year’s procession.
“The parade is our way to remind people that we’re an integral part of the community and we contribute in so many ways to what makes Austin special,” Hicks said. “Pride is our way to get out there and put it in everyone’s face and to remind folks that we’re here and we’re queer and we’re not going anywhere.”
Past chair John Cano marched in last year’s parade and said he participated to help spread visibility for the Pride Alumni Network. Since the organization is relatively new, founded in 2010, some UT graduates are still unaware the group exists.
And the word is spreading. Last year, about 25 people participated in the parade. This year, nearly 100 people signed up.
“People get really excited to see us [and] people love the University of Texas,” Cano said. “Leading the chants and having everyone holler back at us — it’s a really good energy that comes out of all of that.”
Looking ahead, the Pride Alumni Network hopes to become more politically active and advocate for LGBT issues such as transgender bathrooms. They are also in the process of funding a scholarship that they will eventually award to several LGBT students each year.
They also hope to expand their presence at this year’s parade.
“People can come out who aren’t members of the LGBT community and that builds support and community, and those are the types of things that continue us on the track that we are on as far as equal rights and recognition,” Dennis said.