Ally Week spreads awareness

 Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star Reporter
Oct. 21, 2013

Gay-Straight Alliance President Brandy Flores makes change with GSA member Mike King at the GSA Bake Sale fundraiser as part of Ally Week in the UAF Wood Center on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. Annie Bartholomew/ Sun Star

Gay-Straight Alliance President Brandy Flores makes change with GSA member Mike King at the GSA Bake Sale fundraiser as part of Ally Week in the UAF Wood Center on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star

Through a five-day series of workshops, information and events, hundreds of UAF students showed their role as allies of the UAF lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning community. The nationally celebrated week serves to recognize and appreciate supporters of the LBGTQ community on campus.

“In the past few years there has been such a big movement to show their support, so why not celebrate a week that raises awareness of different issues going on in the [LGBTQ] community right now?” Student Activities Office student organizer Juan Cruz said. The event is in its second year being hosted by the SAO and the UAF Gay-Straight Alliance. More than 10 events were available for UAF to learn about issues facing the LGBTQ community and how anyone can become an ally.

“An ally is someone who’s not a direct member of the [LGBTQ] community but still is supportive, knows about what’s going on right now with LGBT rights and issues,” GSA President Brandy Flores said. With the help of 30 GSA volunteers, Flores worked to find local speakers, hand out rainbow ribbon pins and organize daily events including a fundraiser bake sale. It was also Flores’ idea to hang four flags symbolizing LGBTQ pride and equality above the Wood Center doorway.

“For me, personally, I want everyone on our campus to be welcomed and supported,” SAO Assistant Director Cody Rogers said, “I don’t ever want people to feel shut out.” Rogers led a full-to-capacity Safe Zone Training with LIVE Assistant Coordinator Josh Hovis. The training offered two hours of activities for faculty and staff to come together to better understand issues faced by LGBTQ students and learn about local and national resources for more information.

This year, GSA included a talk on transgender, and an informational session on Alaska House Bill 139.  Connor MacDonald led the discussion on HB 139 which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.  Cruz’s favorite workshop was Trans Session 101, which discussed transgender issues, led by Hayden Nevill.

GSA chose to show the films Wild Tigers I Have Known about a homosexual boy and TransAmerica starring Felicity Huffman as a transsexual woman during the Ally week events.

SAO could not have done it without the help of GSA and its volunteers who served as experts during Ally Week, Rogers said.

Flores thinks there are many allies at UAF, and Ally week helps people see that.  “Obviously, in any community there will be people who are not supportive but it definitely shows that UAF as a whole is a supportive community and very safe place for people to live in.”

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