U of U Holds Ally Week

Once again the University of Utah will hold its annual Ally Awareness Week, to increase awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of the university community and the many ways straight people can support them.

The theme of the school’s second annual Ally Awareness Week is Together We Can — an appropriate theme, given that the week, like last year’s, will highlight a department or school office that has worked closely with the school’s LGBT Resource Center and designated itself as a “safe zone” for gay and transgender students and employees. This year, the resource center will honor the Department of Psychology.

The week of events will run from April 13 – 17, with several events scheduled for each day, said Cathy Martinez, the LGBT Resource Center’s Director.

On April 13, activities will begin with a screening of the documentary _Speak Up! Improving the Lives of GLBT Youth_ at 7:30 p.m. in the Olpin Student Union Theater. The short documentary will be followed by a panel discussion (lead by the Utah Pride Center) of gay and transgender youth.

“They will talk to people attending the screening about the support they need from adults in the community in order to thrive and feel like they can be themselves,” said Martinez. “And, there’s free popcorn!”

On the 14th, Sugarhouse boutique Ten Thousand Villages, 941 S 1100 E, will hold a community shopping night from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Twenty percent of all purchases at this fair trade shop will go to the LGBT Resource Center.

The following day, the resource center will host a panel of U of U employees and members of the broader Salt Lake City community that will address the importance of straight allies to gay and transgender people. This panel, held from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium will feature U professors Gerda Saunders (Gender Studies), Lisa Diamond (Psychology), Sy Maestas (student), Ryan Randall (Coordinator of Outreach Services), therapist Jerry Buie of Pride Counseling and Alex Moya, a Hispanic Outreach Specialist for the Utah AIDS Foundation.

The members of the panel, said Martinez, “primarily identify as LGBTQ” and will address “why we need allies to get the work done we need to get done.”

“For [U of U] Pride week and even for the rallies that were held throughout the city during the Prop. 8 stuff, we had a lot of allies at those events, so we want to acknowledge the importance of allies and how people can be allies in the community, and why it’s so valuable that we have allies,” she said.

The Ally Social will be held April 16 from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. in the Olpin Student Union’s Parlor A, and all are invited to attend. At this social, the resource center will be honoring the Department of Psychology. A light buffet will be served and the resource center will offer parking validations for attendees.

The week will culminate in the Day of Silence on April 17. During this day students across the nation refrain from speaking in order to draw attention to anti-gay and anti-transgender harassment, violence and discrimination in educational settings and in society at large. Participating students will maintain their silence from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at which time they will meet on the Olpin Union Building’s patio to discuss what the day means to them. Martinez said she will likely speak, and that the floor will be open to anyone who would like to say something.

The Day of silence will also include “safe zone” training in the union building’s room 161 from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. This training, which the LGBT Resource Center provides to university departments and employees year-round, discusses gay and transgender history, terminology and the ways that straight people can be an ally. At the end of training, participants receive a safe zone sign to put in their cubicle or office. Entire university departments that receive the training may put their sign up in their entry way. The sign, said Martinez, indicates that whomever displays has “agreed to be someone” to whom a gay or transgender person may safely speak about issues that relate specifically to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Martinez said that the resource center conducted 25 such sessions around campus and anticipates doing “many more” in 2009.

Ally week will end with the annual Silence is a Drag Show at Club Sound, 579 W 200 S, which will run from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. This drag show is a fundraiser for the U’s Queer Student Union and will include student performers. Those who want to participate must bring their own music and must email QSU at [email protected] with intention to participate by April 15.

The entry fee for the evening is a suggested donation of $5, which will cover food during the show, non-alcoholic drinks and re-entry to the club after 9:00 p.m.

Last year, said Martinez, a raffle at the drag show raised about $350 for QSU. Raising money through fundraisers, she added, is particularly important this year when the resource center and other student groups are looking for “innovative ways to get money” thanks to the dismal U.S. economy and budget cuts at the school.

Along with Ten Thousand Villages, Mark Miller Subaru , 3734 State Street, will donate $150 from the purchase of each new or used car in its lot to the LGBT Resource Center if the purchaser requests.

The resource center and other gay and transgender-friendly U of U student groups will also set up tables on the union building’s first floor (near the pool tables) throughout the week.

To learn more about the LGBT Resource Center visit sa.utah.edu/lgbt.

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