Are you a friend of Dorothy? Members and supporters of the LGBT community would resound with a resounding yes. Regardless of your answer, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Commission welcomes all University community members to the annual Queer Visibility Week, a celebration of the LGBT community on campus, as well as LGBT allies.
This year’s events include numerous educational and social activities, like tonight’s lecture, subtitled “Making Athletics Safe for Lesbian and Gay Athletes and Coaches” and Thursday night’s open-skate event at Yost Ice Arena.
Although Queer Visibility Week serves many purposes, LGBT Commission Co-chair Jeff Souva said the main goal of the events is to raise awareness of the large gay and transgender population on campus.
“Our purpose is to be visible, to end the invisibility of the community and to gain allies,” said Souva, an LSA sophomore. “We want to raise awareness of LGBT people on campus.”
Souva said the LGBT community faces continuous social and critical problems. “Our issues include marriage, adoption and the University’s non-discrimination policy, which doesn’t include protection for gender identity at U of M,” he added.
For the past two years, several controversies have erupted in conjunction with Queer Visibility Week. In 2001, Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., a vocal anti-gay crusader, protested the week’s rally. Last year, the LGBT Commission worked to convince the United Way charity organization to drop the Boy Scouts of America from its general fund.
“We had a great response from the University two years ago, as well as from some conservative groups on campus against the extremist views of Fred Phelps,” former LGBT Commission Co-chair Ben Conway said.
Conway, an LSA senior, said the University’s response to the Commission’s United Way concerns was also positive. “The United Way wasn’t supporting the University’s anti-discrimination policies,” Conway said. “Last year the United Way said they were dropping the Boy Scouts from their general fund.”
Souva said he did not expect any events like the Phelps protest to occur this week. “These are peaceful demonstrations. We don’t expect any controversy this year,” Souva said.
The week culminates with a rally and kiss-in in the Diag at noon Friday, where students and community members are invited to “bring a friend and be ready to smooch,” according to Queer Visibility Week’s calendar of events.
Other organizations sponsoring the events include the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs Office and MOTHRA, the University’s “Queer Asians” organization.