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Pride Alliance: 'That's So Gay'

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Hallie Bolonkin / Arizona Daily Wildcat A quilt decorated with inspirational phrases including ?Love Yourself? and ?Gay is Beautiful? is displayed on UA mall during the National Coming Out Day LGBTQ Resource Fair Monday, Oct. 11. The event included booths set up along the mall offering resources including campus clubs, HIV/AIDS support and leadership training.


Programs for this year's UA Coming Out Week addresses recent harassment of the LGBTQ community.



The 12 days of events come after national attention has been called to the bullying of gay teenagers. Several teenagers committed suicide over the past month after being harassed, including Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, after his roommate broadcasted Clementi having sex with another man on the internet.



Coming Out Week incorporates a variety of events geared toward the UA. Pride in the Desert and drag bingo celebrate individuality and pride in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community.



""We do have some events that are a little more somber,"" said sociology senior Jai Smith, co-director of ASUA Pride Alliance.



Event organizers added a speak-out and candlelight vigil in response to the recent suicides, as ""a call to action for those who won't stand for this type of bullying,"" Smith said.



The suicides have heightened awareness of an ongoing problem, according to Smith.



""It's important to note that this bullying is not new, but definitely something that has gained a lot more media attention,"" Smith said. ""The fact of the matter is that this is our lives we're talking about.""



Martie van der Voort, mental health clinician for Campus Health Service, runs a weekly support group where LGBTQ students can share their stories of harassment.



""That figured prominently in our discussion this week. A lot of this is going on here,"" van der Voort said. ""We're talking about it. It's big. We're tapping into a lot of grief in the queer community.""



History junior Kristen Godfrey attended the Coming Out Day resource fair on the UA Mall Monday. She said several students yelled the word ""faggot"" during the football game on Saturday.



""Everyone uses it,"" Godfrey said. ""We actually had to tell a stranger, ‘Dude. That's a bad word. Stop saying that.'""



Van der Voort has personally experienced this discrimination.



""I've certainly had people drive by and yell ‘dyke' at me,"" van der Voort said.



Coming Out Week aims to educate the public about these issues.



""There are some events that are specifically to reach those who might not have any idea what the LGBTQ community looks like or that it is very diverse,"" Smith said.



The resource fair provided information from campus and community organizations. Signs displayed statistics about harassment and messages from the Pride Alliance's ""That's So Gay"" campaign.



The campaign ""brings awareness to the phrase ‘That's so gay,' to people who use it and may not know what it means,"" said psychology senior Derek Knocke, intern for ASUA Pride Alliance.



Coming Out Day also featured an open discussion during which people could share personal coming out stories.



""LGBTQ (people) and straight allies all have stories about the fight we fight,"" said Patty Putman, intern for ASUA Pride Alliance and a senior studying English.



Van der Voort said allies are important to ending discrimination.



""The allies are showing up — non-gays supportive of the queer community,"" van der Voort said. ""That to me is where real revolution lies. That's actually a wonderful example of coming out.""



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