BGALA promotes 'coming out'

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The activities on the UA Mall were a little different than usual yesterday.

Hundreds of students sat on the Mall watching as members of the University of Arizona Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Association danced in celebration of National Coming Out Day. Many of the participants cross-dressed or wore T-shirts with gay-rights slogans.

Coming Out Day will be celebrated nationally today, but BGALA was unable to schedule the Mall so the campus event was held early, Director Jenny Smeltzer said.

"Walking through the door is symbolic of coming out publicly," she said about a rainbow-painted door set up on the Mall for the event. "We want to encourage people to gain support and visibility during the day's events."

BGALA's informational fair and Coming Out Day celebration is held annually to provide the campus with information about gay-related issues and to offer support for people who want to "come out" and announce that they are homosexuals during the event, Smeltzer said. Most of the students who danced and walked in a procession through the door were already public members of the homosexual community.

KAMP Radio played music in the background to add excitement and draw attention to the event, Smeltzer said.

Sen. Jonathan Bierner said the most important aspect of the event is informing students to diminish prejudices and stereotypes about homosexuality.

"Having events like this on campus gives people an opportunity to find out a little more about gay lifestyle than they already knew," he said. "Hopefully it will open up people's minds and make people realize you don't have to look gay to be gay."

Local organizations including Tucson AIDS Project, Wingspan and the Tucson Lesbian and Gay Awareness Project staffed booths at the event to provide information.

"I'm here today to show support for my wonderful son and because education is important," said Phyllis Beckley, a member of the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Association. "I have friends who have known my son for his entire life but haven't had the opportunity to be around other gay youths. Now through me they are learning about it and are being very accepting."

Bobbie Moore, also from the parents and friends group, said she hopes other people will join in support of gay and lesbian students.

"It is important to know that parents accept it, so other people can be accepting too," she said.

A free "History of Pride" dance will take place Friday in the Junior-Senior Ballroom at 9 p.m.

"Everyone, both gay and straight, is invited to come celebrate with us," Smeltzer said.

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