By Christina Cronin
Jaylen Creonte-Baird sits in the Pride Alliance office, practicing her speech for the campus’s Gender Identity Forum. Nervous, she starts to put on more makeup. She uses her hairbrush to brush out her eyebrows since she does not have a proper spoolie on hand. Without realizing it, she finishes an entire liter of Pedialyte, which she drinks to fight off her oncoming cold.
Creonte-Baird, president of the Pride Alliance at Worcester State University, joined Pride freshman year as a gay male. In that safe space, she discovered that she was a trans-woman, came out to her friends and family, and went through hormonal treatment. However, Jaylen was not able to just change her name in the school’s administration system to her chosen name. She had to legally change her name and reintroduce herself to her professors. She would have felt more comfortable if Worcester State had been more accommodating before she arrived as a student. Because of this experience, Jaylen wasted no time in advocating for a safe campus climate for members of the LGBTQ+ community, coming up with ideas for events and socials for the Pride Alliance, speaking at events on campus, and encouraging other students to become active in Pride.
One of those students is vice president Liz DeCosta, who admits that she would not have been as active in the Pride Alliance or the Campus Climate Committee if it were not for Jaylen being so encouraging. Liz met Jaylen at her freshman orientation. Jaylen had been a part of the panel for diversity on campus, and Liz and Jaylen started talking to each other about Pride. From this experience, Liz has been introduced not only to Jaylen, but many other important people in her life, as well.
Another member of the Pride Alliance, who wishes to remain anonymous because she does not want to out herself, joined last semester. She was very nervous about joining Pride because she describes herself as having a mixed orientation, and she was worried that the Pride Alliance would not be as accepting of that. Jaylen was explicitly welcoming. There was not a lot of room for confusion on whether or not it was a safe space for her. She is unsure whether Pride has always been this accepting, but she feels that since Jaylen has been president, people like her are included. It has really helped her socialize with other people from the LGBTQ+ community and feel more comfortable in her own skin.
Kendra Creonte, Jaylen’s mother, has long had a feeling that Jaylen wanted to be female. She loved girly things when she was little; she always tried to put on Kendra’s clothes. Kendra was accepting of Jaylen when she came out to her. While Jaylen’s mother was accepting of her, Jaylen found that society often wasn’t. Even so, since her transformation, Jaylen is in a much happier place. Kendra says that Jaylen still struggles with personal issues and feeling confident in putting herself out there. She wants to be able to put herself out there more and help people, which is a passion for her, especially the LGBTQ+ community.
“You’re a role model for these people. You can do a lot for these people,” Kendra always tells Jaylen.
Jaylen is backed by a huge support system in her family. Part of her responsibility as president of the Pride Alliance is to help other members find that same support. For example, Jaylen recently helped a new member find housing in Safe Home, a place that provides housing to youth, especially LGBTQ+ youth, in Worcester. Despite being a big-hearted person who is willing to make everyone feel like they belong, Jaylen still struggles within herself to be confident with who she is. Kendra feels that if society was more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, Jaylen would have more self confidence.
Jaylen is currently working on getting the producers of the online series Brothers, which tells the stories of the lives of four trans-men living in Brooklyn, to come to Worcester State. The fees to get the producers to come to campus have increased by about four times, says Professor Tim Murphy of the urban studies department, who is the faculty advisor of the Pride Alliance. Even so, Jaylen, who is very optimistic, is persistent on finding the money from the school to get the producers to make an appearance.
Creonte-Baird has grown and matured a lot from the shy student she used to be. She has embraced the role as president of Pride, creating a safe and accepting space for those of the LGBTQ+ community. With that in mind, she still struggles to recognize her strengths and feel confident in herself. Murphy says that sometimes we do not recognize our strengths, and other people can see us as really strong, so sometimes we just need other people to remind us of how strong we are.