As the students begin pouring into the room, the club leaders stand to greet them. They start off the meeting by making it clear that this is a safe space and to go around the room introducing people by their preferred pronouns.
This room is the meeting area for the People Respecting Individuals and Sexual Minorities club (P.R.I.S.M). P.R.I.S.M is a club devoted to creating a space for students to destress and be themselves.
During one club session, the students were building shrinky dinks. A shrinky dink is a colored plastic sheet that can be heated into colorful designs.
P.R.I.S.M tells a story of growing inclusivity. It was founded in 1986 as the Gay Academic Union (G.A.Y.) before changing its name to G.L.N.C.A in 1990. This new name included the lesbian community. In 2003, the name was changed to P.R.I.S.M, representing increased diversity.
P.R.I.S.M hosts many events throughout the year on campus. These events can range from HIV testing and drag shows, to something as simple as a movie night. These movies, of course, follow a theme.
“We put on LGBT movies. We’re thinking about putting on “Love, Simon” or a drag queen movie, “Hurricane Bianca.” I love the movie night events,” said sophomore film major Roberto Gonzalez.
The most popular event by far happens to be the drag show.
“The coolest event is definitely the drag shows ... seeing all the queens and kings coming out [and] being unapologetically themselves,” said senior criminal justice major Destiny Flores.
Most of the students have participated in the drag show have a drag name. Gonzalez, for instance, performs under the name Lady Nightingale. The Nightingale is a bird notorious for its flamboyant showboating, and Gonzalez said he loves to perform in such a way.
“It’s whatever you want it to be, it’s art. Putting on makeup and creating something. A lot of drag queens will lip sync to songs,” Gonzalez said.
His favorite song to perform to is “Love is Battlefield” by Pat Benatar.
These lyrics encapsulate P.R.I.S.M’s goal. They are a group that just wants to hang out, have fun and be themselves. The club has also helped those who are shy get out of their shell and make friends who are like them.
“I know a lot of people in this club personally who are pretty introverted. They have made a lot of their friends through this club,” said Henry Medley, senior studio art major and president of the club.
Many of the students said they just love the fun of being with friends. Medley described an open mic night that turned into a free-for-all karaoke show.
There are also jeopardy trivia nights, where the topics revolve around the LGBT community.
“We’ve had pop culture trivia like “Steven Universe,” queer media and celebrity history. It’s like queer-specific trivia for the most part,” said sophomore history major Len Truelsen.
P.R.I.S.M isn’t necessarily all events and games, though. They also provide valuable services for members of the campus community. One of these services is free HIV testing a couple times throughout the academic year. These testings can be done for the LGBTQ+ community and nonmembers.
The events are free and equal opportunity is an important part of P.R.I.S.M’s mission. They do not charge membership dues or fees of any other kind.
“Henry always says, P.R.I.S.M is open doors [for] anyone, [and anyone] is free to come in at any time,” Flores said.
So, with the free events and no club fees, it makes one wonder how P.R.I.S.M can afford to run.
“No one has to pay anything. Money we make at [shows at the] Orpheum always goes back to the deposit. We sell shirts with themes of the show. No one pays dues,” Flores said.
The drag show is the centerpiece of the club. It is its biggest event and the biggest fundraising night for the club.
Many of the students said NAU is a relatively laid-back campus and that they haven’t had to deal with stigma from the campus.
Despite the feeling of a laid-back campus, in 2008 a homophobic death threat was found scrawled across a students room. In 2010, there was physical violence attempted on members of P.R.I.S.M. These events happened recently, and it is a dark note to show that homophobia still lurks around campus.
“The political climate has felt a little oppressive, I think people need [a] safe space where they can get away from [any hate], especially on [our] college campus,” Gonzalez said.
P.R.I.S.M has also been a spot where many students could meet their romantic partners. Medley said this was a club for friendships, but several students mentioned how they met their partners at P.R.I.S.M.
“The last person I was dating, they were a member of P.R.I.S.I.M. [Being a member], it doesn’t make it easier, but it doesn’t make it harder, it just kind of exists,” Flores said.
The retention rates of the club are high for those who choose to get involved.
“I’ve been a member since my freshman year, and I joined the board halfway through my freshman year and worked my way to the president,” Medley said.
Whether that comes from arts, pizza, movies or even drag shows, it functions like any another club. Life and love is a battlefield, but with P.R.I.S.M., it becomes just a little bit easier.