Wednesday, August 21

National Coming Out Week to give support to LGBT community

This week works to celebrate and welcome members of the LGBT population at UCLA

Melanie Simangan vividly remembers the warmth and support she felt when the UCLA National Coming Out Week welcomed her into the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Simangan came to UCLA from a small town in Northern California, where she said the LGBT population is small.

“I remember the freshmen version of me coming to this event and just being blown away by the sheer magnitude of the queer community at UCLA,” said Simangan, who is now the director of the Queer Alliance.

National Coming Out Week allows LGBT students to celebrate their identity and lets other students know that they have support at UCLA, Simangan said.

The organizations in charge of planning the week feel the need to make new students feel welcome, especially freshmen who came from schools where there was not an LGBT Alliance, Simangan said.

“I think about all the future freshmen that are going to come to this event and see this, and how everyone will come to this event and realize, “˜Wow! We really have an active queer community,’” Simangan said.

This year’s National Coming Out Week in particular took more work than usual, she added.

In the past, the week was planned primarily by the Queer Alliance, one of the biggest LGBT organizations on campus.

This year, all the constituent LGBT organizations were asked to participate, which requires more collaborative coordination, she said.

This year, the members of the LGBT community at UCLA realize the value of putting in the extra effort to make all types of people within their community feel welcome, Simangan said.

She added that in past years, National Coming Out Week was mainly focused on making gay students feel comfortable at UCLA, but this year, there is more of an effort to reach out to transgender individuals.

In an attempt to do this, Dr. Marci Bowers, a renowned sex reassignment surgeon, will speak in hopes of making transgender individuals feel more welcome during this week.

For the first time, the graduate LGBT student groups are sponsoring the annual drag show. Black organizations within the LGBT community, who in previous years were not as involved with this week, are also co-sponsoring the drag show and contributing to other various events.

Some of the leaders of Queer Alliance said they immediately wanted students to feel a sense of camaraderie prior to the week with the Paint Your Pride event, which serves as the pre-celebration that sets the spirit for the week.

Almost all of the LGBT organizations partook in the celebration at the LGBT Campus Resource Center.

“The spirit of Proposition 8 lives on in our daily lives and motivates us to educate people about who we are and reminds us to come together,” said Stepheyne Apodoca, internal vice president of the Queer Alliance and co-chair of BlaQue, a queer African American group on campus.

California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, was passed in the November 2008 general election.

One of the main topics of discussion for the week is drawing support for the California Marriage Equality Act on the 2010 ballot, which if passed will overturn Proposition 8, she said.

“Even though all the organizations have worked together in previous years, more so than ever this year there’s more involvement because last year we were like, we need to build more solidarity because it’s a tough struggle being who we are at this time,” said Vanessa Angulo, director of external affairs for the Queer Alliance.

The eventful week starts today at noon on Bruin Walk where the drag show will be taking place, followed by the BBQueer from 5-8 p.m. at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center on the Hill.

“If I can have just one person tell me that National Coming Out Week really affected their lives, then all the months of planning and preparation was worth it,” Simangan said.

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