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LGBTQ Affairs sees attendance increase to Wildcat Welcome pizza party

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Tyler Besh | Arizona Daily Wildcat

Tyler Besh /The Daily Wildcat

Ana Serrano, a sophomore pre-nursing major from Tucson, Arizona, speaks to a table leader at the LGBTQ Welcome Back Party in the Tucson Room at the Union on August 29, 2013.

More than two hundred students came together to learn about and connect with LGBTQ resources yesterday.

LGBTQ Affairs hosted its Wildcat Welcome LGBTQA Pizza Party on Thursday evening on the fourth floor of the Student Union Memorial Center. The event wasn’t just for UA LGBTQ students, it was also for students who identify as allies of that community.

“Students informally call it ‘gay pizza,’” said Jennifer Hoefle Olson, program director for LGBTQ Affairs. “It’s of the utmost importance to us that people of any gender identity or any sexual orientation see themselves reflected here.”

The event attracted more than 200 attendees, a slight increase from last year, according to Hoefle Olson. ‘Gay pizza’ started out as a student-run event in 2008 and in 2010 LGBTQ Affairs started organizing it.

Hoefle Olson said the event is meant to introduce not only incoming freshmen, but also returning students, to on-campus resources and services.

“This is geared specifically toward resources for LGBTQ and allies students,” Hoefle Olson said, “and that’s why we invite LGBTQ and allied community partners.”

Pride Alliance, Delta Lambda Phi, the Dean of Students office and Campus Health were also there to help students looking for resources around campus.

“When you’re an LGBTQ student, sometimes you can feel really alienated,” said Alicia Born, public heath senior and Pride Alliance intern. “Our job is to make this campus more inclusive and safe for LGBTQ students.”

Wingspan, an off-campus LGBTQ community center was available to students looking for outreach, support or resources. The Tucson GBLT Chamber of Commerce, a chamber of commerce that works to put LGBTQ customers in contact with businesses that are accepting of their gender or sexuality, also reached out to students at the party.

“You could consider us like the business arm of the GLBT community,” said Liane Wong, secretary for the Board of Directors of the GLBT Chamber of Commerce. “If someone needs a lawyer … we got lawyers.”

During a presentation of the resources available both on campus and in the community, Hoefle Olson asked how many of the students were new; approximately half the students raised their hands.

“I’ve always wanted to be a part of a community like this,” said Alex McKain, undeclared freshman. “That’s why I came here, I wanted to find a community, a social outlet of some sort.”

McKain said there weren’t a lot of outreach programs for gay students at his high school and although they did some events he didn’t feel like he was a part of community there.

Excitement filled the room when attendees were told about the fairly new LGBTQ Affairs lounge. Prior to last spring the LGBTQ Affairs was in a 15 foot by 20 foot cubicle with no door. They’ve since moved into a larger space, according to Hoefle Olson.

“Now we have a new center, with a door,” Hoefle Olson said. “We’re just getting on the map in new ways. We put a lot of love into making it pretty over the summer.”

Ashley Apocada, East Asian studies freshman said it’s great having people who are accepting of the LGBTQ community.

“It’s hard to know whether or not people are going to be accepting right away,” Apocada said. “It’s just great to be around people you know don’t care. Not so much they support you, or they believe in you, or they’re also gay; but just that they don’t care. I think that’s what’s great.”


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