HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Holyoke Community College celebrated pride month and put its support of the LGBTQ+ community on display Thursday with the raising of the pride flag on campus.

This is the first time in the institution’s 75-year history that they have raised the rainbow flag. This event brought together the HCC rainbow club, LGBTQ+ task force, and other students and staff.

At the flag raising, HCC President Christina Royal acknowledged her coming out as a queer woman back in college, and hopes more people will feel comfortable about expressing their true identity.

“When I first started as president of HCC, someone asked me if I planned to be a visible, out president,” Royal said in a Pride Month message to faculty and staff earlier this week. “My answer was yes, although the fact that this was a question to be pondered, and it was in 2017, reflects that there is still work to be done to fully actualize what so many LGBTQ+ activists fought for and continue to advocate for: the right to love who you want to love without consequence, and the right to express who you are without reprieve.”

Royal said at HCC, LGBTQ individuals are allowed to put their preferred name in the system, so they can be identified as such, in their classes. HCC has more pride events coming up later this month, and you can find the details on their website.

“Since we live in an area where many individuals identify as LBGTQ+, it may be easy to forget that there is progress to be made, not simply in our world but in our region,” Royal said. “Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate our history, our progress, and ultimately to show appreciation for our LBGTQ+ colleagues, friends, family, and community.”

The flag will fly for the rest of the month.