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GLBTQ Awareness Week at NMSU to include education, celebration

Authors, advocates and gender bending performers will be at New Mexico State University to help celebrate and educate people about the progress and challenges facing the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning community during GLBTQ Awareness Week April 16-20.

A drag performer sings wearing short black dress with an altered train and fishnet stockings.
Entertainer Lady Shug performs at a 2011 drag show during GLBTQ Awareness Week at NMSU. (submitted photo)

This is the third year the Sexual and Gender Diversity Resource Center at NMSU is holding GLBTQ Awareness Week and events will begin April 16 with the Festival of Colors at the outdoor stage of Corbett Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The festival includes free food, a DJ, shirts provided by WAVE and tables with information from PFLAG, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and other associations.

"It's a great way to kickoff the week that includes local GLBTQ organizations and information and pamphlets about relevant issues and upcoming events," said Sharna Horn, coordinator for the Sexual and Gender Diversity Resource Center at NMSU. "It's also a social event and some students even bring games to play out on the lawn."

There will also be two keynote speakers during the week. The first speaker will be Judy Shepard, who cofounded the Matthew Shepard Foundation in honor of her son who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in 1998. Shepard will speak at the Las Cruces Convention Center at 7 p.m. at a free event that is open to the public.

Shepard is an activist whose mission is to make schools and communities safe for everyone regardless of race, sex, religion or gender identity. She will be signing copies of her book "The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed," before and after the event.

The second speaker will be Eric Alva, a retired Marine staff sergeant who was the first American solider wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Alva will speak at the Ballrooms in Corbett Center at 7 p.m. April 18. He will discuss his role in the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy as well as difficulties faced by gays and lesbians who serve in the military.

Other events to take place during the week are a safe zone training April 19 at 1 p.m. in Milton Hall, Room 50. The training offers people a chance to learn about the history, terminology and other issues surrounding the GLBTQ community and ways to become an advocate or an ally.

Horn said many are looking forward to the drag show and since last year's show was standing room only, this year it will be held in the Corbett Center Ballrooms April 19 at 7 p.m. There will be male and female performers.

"I want it to be an informative week but I also want it to be a fun week for everyone, including our straight allies," Horn said.

Derek Beckford is a student aide at the resource center who said while the events can't address every issue, they can still provide support to individuals who may feel isolated or uninformed. "It's not just about being in a certain kind of category," Beckford said. "It's about everyone spending time together and learning about each other."

The events are cosponsored by ASNMSU, Stonewall QSA, the Sexual and Gender Diversity Resource Center and WAVE. A full listing of GLBTQ Awareness Week events is available at http://nmsu.edu/~sgdrc/glbtqweek.html.