Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students are celebrating gay pride during Coming Out Week this week, with five days of entertainment, from drag king and queen performances to gay Jeopardy, aimed at educating the campus community about GLBT issues.
The events, organized by ASUA Pride Alliance, will give GLBT and straight students the chance to socialize and join GLBT campus groups, organizers said.
"It's helpful sometimes to see that there are so many gay and lesbians on campus," said Brittany Bayn, an undeclared sophomore and co-director of Pride Alliance. "It also helps gay and lesbian students to see so many straight alliances."
Coming Out Week kicks off today on the UA Mall, where gay and lesbian students will answer questions about themselves as part of "Ask a Gay a Question."
Alex Grubb, a journalism junior who will answer questions at the event, said he hopes the casual question and answer format will help debunk common myths about gays and make students more comfortable with their sexuality and that of others.
"One of the biggest misconceptions is that gays are really promiscuous, especially gay men," Grubb said.
Angelie Nguyen, a retailing and consumer sciences sophomore and co-director of Pride Alliance, agreed.
"In the media, gay men are portrayed as flamboyant and less masculine, but it really depends on an individual basis," Nguyen said. "Being gay is not a label, it's just a sexuality."
Grubb, president of Students Promoting Respect for Individuality Through Example, or SPRITE, a residence-hall club that promotes a positive atmosphere for GLBT students, said many gay and lesbian students are concerned with being targets of hate crimes.
Though Grubb described the UA campus as GLBT friendly, he said recent incidents show that discrimination and harassment are not unheard of.
Grubb said so far this semester, there have been four to five reported instances of offensive messages being written on the dry-erase boards outside of gay students' dorm rooms.
Grubb said harassment is hard on students who just want to be themselves in their new environment.
"For most students, this is a time when they can get away from everything they know and start over," Grubb said. "For them to have it be a negative experience can cause problems with schoolwork and making friends."
Students who know about gay history, like the Stonewall Riots, have the chance to win free candy at Jeopardy day on the Mall tomorrow, said Bayn, who will be hosting the game.
Riots started in the late 60s after police raided the New York gay bar Stonewall Inn, marked the first time gays collectively resisted arrest. The riots are widely seen as having launched the gay pride movement.
Bayn said because gay and lesbian history has typically been left out of most students' history courses, many might not know about similar turning points in GLBT history.
"I didn't learn anything about gay and lesbian history in school," Bayne said. "Even in college history classes you don't hear too much about it. It's a kind of underground history."
Grubb said participation in these and other events helps keep the gay rights movement alive.
"We're encouraging people to come out and get involved," he said. "The stronger groups we have, the louder the voice we'll have in changing things.
Coming Out Week
11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., Community Tabling and "Ask a Gay a Question" on the Mall
8:00 p.m., Public discussion group at Rainbow Cafe, 606 N. Fourth Ave.
11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., Jeopardy on the Mall
6:00 p.m., Screening of "But I'm a Cheerleader," in the ASUA conference Room in the Student Union Memorial Center
6:00 p.m.-8:45 p.m., Drag king and drag queen performances at the Cross Dress Cabaret in the Cellar at Wilbur's Underground
11:00 a.m.-1:00p.m., Coming Out Day on the Mall, students of all sexual orientations can walk through a closet
12:00p.m., Charles Darwin Experience comedy troupe on the Mall