With a deep love for the queer community and its rich history, University of New Mexico student Shane Hall celebrates pride by embracing queer individuals and broaching conversations on LGBTQ+ equality, gender and friendship.

Raised in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, Hall’s love for his community at UNM rose from the humble beginnings of being queer in a small town.

“For Pride month this year, I’m going to hang out with a few friends, have a good time, have a little bit of a party and drive around and just be gay,” Hall said.

According to Hall, not being able to have a pride parade this year due to the continued restrictions on mass gatherings was a blow to the LGBTQ+ community. 

“Pride is important to Shane because it’s history is such an integral part of his identity,” Hall’s best friend, Kat Norman, said.

Hall often felt misunderstood growing up in the small, conservative town of Cloudcroft, and it took a while for him to recognize and feel comfortable in his gay identity.

“When high school came around, I thought, ‘Oh, there’s a word for that. I’m attracted to men,’ and that was the thing that really connected me with my sense of confidence and got me out of that town and put me in college here,” Hall said.

Hall wants to support and celebrate individuals in the community that have historically been vulnerable to oppression and intolerance, according to Norman.

“There’s so much importance in the presentation of queerness and having events like Pride and having huge cultural reminders in the mainstream,” Hall said.

Embracing the LGBTQ+ community is important for Hall because it connects queerness and a sense of social belonging. While celebrating pride is steeped in history and culture, Norman said it’s also liberating to Hall since he had been raised in a small town where being queer was not as openly accepted.

“There have been times, in his own queerness, where he’s felt belittled,” Norman said.

Hall has taken the opportunity to reflect on how he experiences masculinity while accepting and embodying feminine traits since coming to college.

“Cloudcroft had a good amount of gay kids, probably because the repression allowed them to come together and realize everything about themselves all at the same time,” Hall said. “I remember sitting on the bus with the band kids, none of us knowing we were gay and all of us coming out to each other at the same time.”

In his time at UNM, Hall has become more comfortable with taking up space in places and conversations and, through it all, accepting and articulating his queerness through the lenses of human fallibility and love, according to Norman.

For Hall, moving away from his hometown for college unequivocally made him feel more comfortable with his queerness and embracing this existence with integrity and a willingness to learn more about himself.

“Being by myself a lot (during the pandemic) has been really nice because it allows me to understand which parts of myself are performative and which parts are not. Gender isn’t really a performance, but there are aspects of gender that are performative,” Hall said. “When men lower their voices and puff out their chest or women do things that necessitate the male gaze because they’ve been told to do so, we do these things because of the construct of gender.”

Hall continues to lean on and share his deep understanding of what it means to be gay and contextualize that through the lenses of gender, culture and history.

“Now I can just sit by myself and say, ‘Do I like these masculine parts of me?’ or, ‘Am I willing to incorporate the feminine parts of myself that I also enjoy and still call myself a cisgender man?’ And that can just be encapsulated within the understanding of my queerness,” Hall said.

Hall encourages others to embrace conversations about LGBTQ+ social issues, weave gender and its performative components into the fabric of queer dialogue and celebrate the differences that ultimately strengthen the community — no matter how big or small. 

“I don’t want people to ignore that we’re queer,” Hall said. “I want people to understand, tolerate and respect the fact that we’re queer.”

Rebecca Hobart is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo