Facing the challenges of equality and affirming its commitment to diversity, members of the University”s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community join with the Michigan Student Assembly”s LGBT Commission and the Office of LGBT Affairs to host the 2002 Queer Visibility Week.

“We need to make sure people are aware that the University has the responsibility to protect all of the campus community members,” said Jim Leija, co-chair of the LGBT commission.

“Our community isn”t always as protected as it seems to be,” Leija said.

The fourth annual Queer Visibility Week begins today and continues through Feb. 15.

“This is a week of celebration, but it is also a week of education and political awareness. We offer these kinds of events for people to learn what is going on in the community so that people know why things are changing in the world,” Leija said.

Keith Boykin, former aide to President Clinton and a professor at American University, will speak Friday about his experiences as the highest ranking homosexual in the U.S. government.

Boykin shares the message that there is an intersection between the different equality movements, Leija said.

“We have to be aware that when we are fighting for LGBT rights, we are also fighting for African American rights and Asian rights. We can”t corner ourselves off into little communities,” Leija said.

The events are also aimed at creating visibility of the LGBT community, educating about health issues and sending a message to the University administration about equal rights.

LGBT will hold the annual “Kiss-in” rally on Feb. 15, which last year was targeted by 15 protesters, including several children, who drove from Kansas to display derogatory signs during the rally. Leija said he does not know if the protesters will target the rally again this year.

The rally will be followed by a picket of the Fleming Administration Building to protest the University”s support of the United Way an organization with strong ties to the Boy Scouts, which has received criticism for its ban on homosexual scout leaders.

Events during the two-week period will also include workshops and discussions on health, safety and awareness issues. The events also coincide with the play, The Vagina Monologues, and the V-Day campaign to stop violence against women.

“We encourage everyone, regardless of political or personal beliefs, to go to some events and come away with a better understanding of the issues,” said Ben Conway, co-chair of the LGBT commission.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the creation of University”s Office of LGBT Affairs. The organization, founded in 1971, was the first of its kind in the world.

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