U of U to Hold Gay Pride Week

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Although Gay Pride Festivals around the world usually pack up their rainbow floats, streamers and disco balls by Labor Day, one place in Utah will keep the fun going well into fall. 

From Oct. 20-24 the University of Utah will offer its annual Pride Week. Under this year’s theme of “Activate. Transform. Evolve,” the five days of talks, presentations, dances and sometimes downright quirky fun are aimed at educating students, faculty, staff and the general public about the importance of gay and transgender rights.

Veterans of Pride Week will recognize several events that have quickly become campus traditions: a safer sex education by the Utah AIDS Foundation; an interfaith service; the drag dash (a footrace performed in sequined gowns and tiaras); and the ever-popular hot dog eating contest, this year given the saucy subtitle “size does matter.” In addition, the university’s LGBT Resource Center will hold an open house to acquaint students and employees with its services, and the Marriot Library will host the provocative-sounding “Secret Lives of Queers Peep Show.”

“There’s this idea of well what do they [gay and transgender people] do,” explained Cathy Martinez, Director of the LGBT Resource Center, which hosts the event each year. “It’s just going to be doing whatever we do on a daily basis: It’s reading a book, sitting down, relaxing, interacting.”

The peep show, which will cost viewers a nickel in the tradition of its sleazier cousins, was scheduled to debut last year. But a heavy October thunderstorm, said Martinez, drove it from the Union Plaza. This time the event will be held indoors.

The popular Allies Panel will also return. A mainstay of the University’s Allies Week, held this April, the panel teaches straight employees and students how to be supportive of gay and transgender classmates and colleagues.

Martinez described the three-hour training session as a crash course in gay issues.

“We go over terminology, history, what it’s like to be ally, the importance of being an ally and how to be an ally,” she said.

Queer students of color at the university will also offer a presentation called “Balancing Multiple Identities: Student of Color,” which will explore the complex ways in which multiple minority identities often intersect. According to Martinez, the panel is similar in some ways to “Minority Voices in Communication,” an Allies Week discussion on how issues like race, sexuality and ethnicity overlap and conflict when it comes to language, and the understanding of the word “queer” in particular. However, she added that this particular panel would focus less on language and more on how participants deal with challenges that come with having multiple identities.

“[Issues like] how do you relate to the world around you, as well as yourself, being LGBT and a person of color,” she explained. “How does the world look the same and different?”

Pride Week will also feature a host of new panels and speakers. University of Utah psychologist Lisa Diamond will speak about her book Sexual Fluidity, which discusses her decade-long study of female bisexuality. In interviews with her subjects (who identified as lesbian, bisexual and unlabeled, but not straight), Diamond found that few women who began the study identifying as bisexual later switched to lesbian or heterosexual, and reported that they were consistently attracted equally to men and women even after marriage. Diamond’s work made national headlines in January when the American Psychological Association cited it in their decision to list female bisexuality as a distinctive orientation, as opposed to a phase in coming out as lesbian.

One of Diamond’s classes will also feature a presentation by Ericka Huggins, an educator, poet and former Black Panther Party leader. In 1969 Huggins was arrested on suspicion of ordering the murder of her husband John Huggins. Charges against her were eventually dropped and members of a rival party convicted for the assassination, but not after Huggins spent two years in prison awaiting trial.
According to her Web site erickahuggins.com, Huggins—now a professor of Women’s Studies at California State University, East Bay—developed citywide programs to help San Francisco’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and questioning youth living with HIV/AIDS as part of her work with the Shanti Project, a support organization for people with cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses.

She writes that she is devoted to the “equality of all—beyond the boundaries of age, culture, class, gender, sexual orientation or ability.”

“She’s going to talk a out the importance of community, coalition building and coming together to build community,” said Martinez.

Pride Week at the University of Utah will end Oct. 24 with a Gala and silent auction at the Jewish Community Center which will feature a performance by lesbian drag group The Salt Lake City Kings and an address by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.

For a full schedule of events visit sa.utah.edu/lgbt/events/index.htm.

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