April 02, 2008

GLBT Awareness Week set for April 14-18

by Christi Mathis


CARBONDALE, Ill. — One of the oldest continuing gay student organizations in the nation, Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Saluki Rainbow Network, will celebrate its 37th birthday with a host of special activities during Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Awareness Week April 14-18.

"The importance of Awareness Week is to show that we are here and that we are not that different from everyone else," said Casey Rumler, a senior from Moline studying creative writing. Rumler serves as public relations officer for Saluki Rainbow Network.

"We have GLBT History Month in October but this week is to show not only where we've been but also where we're at now and hope to be in the future," Rumler added.

The modern gay rights movement traces its roots to June 1969 and the SIUC organization was born April 14, 1971, according to Paulette Curkin, coordinator of the GLBT Resource Center.

"The Saluki Rainbow Network has been sponsoring an awareness week in April for at least the past 20 years," Curkin said. "The intentions of the programs have always been to increase awareness on campus of GLBT people and their issues as well as allow GLBT people to celebrate their important presence here. With all of the cultural and legal changes occurring around GLBT rights, these programs provide an excellent learning opportunity for faculty, staff, students and community members. I hope loads of people will take advantage and come to our events."

It all kicks off with an appearance by the Rev. Mel White at 7 p.m. on April 14 in the Student Center's Ballroom D. White authored "Stranger at the Gate: To be Gay and Christian in America," and is justice minister for the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

An award-winning television producer, filmmaker, pastor, seminary professor and best-selling author, White worked for the late Rev. Jerry Falwell before "coming out." He's been a ghostwriter for numerous other evangelical leaders including Jim Bakker, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham as well as Falwell. White battled depression for decades and fought to "overcome" his homosexual orientation before reconciling his Christianity and sexual orientation. He and partner Gary Nixon received the ACLU National Civil Liberties Award in 1997. White originally planned to speak at SIUC in October during GLBT History Month, but health problems forced postponement of the visit.

A mock wedding is set for 3:30 p.m. April 15 on the steps of Shryock Auditorium. Curkin said the event will highlight the current civil union legislation pending in Springfield and the fight to legalize civil unions as well as underscoring the importance of such unions.

The Saluki Rainbow Network meets at 6 p.m. April 16 at the Student Center with psychology graduate student Ryan Cheperka to address career issues regarding whether to "come out" while on a job search, and other topics of relevance.

Homo Acts are coming to the Free Forum area, north of McAndrew Stadium, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 17, with visitors invited to "come and see the homosexual agenda in action." Curkin said the "action" involves games, tossing Frisbees, a cookout, and other commonplace activities illustrating that gay people are just like everyone else.

That evening, Transgender Monologues is at 7 p.m. in the Ohio Room of the Student Center. Local transgender individuals will comprise a panel discussing transgender issues on campus and in the community.

A Kiss-In is coming to the Student Center around noon April 18. The awareness exercise features GLBT people showing public affection and assessing public reaction, Curkin said. She said the recent Tunnel of Oppression at SIUC revealed public displays of affection by gay people bother some people.

The Saluki Rainbow Network is sponsoring the GLBT Awareness Week with the GLBT Resource Center as a co-sponsor for the transgender dialogues. Co-sponsors for the Mel White visit include the GLBT Resource Center, the Unitarian Fellowship Program Committee, University Christian Ministries, Graduate Professional Student Council and Student Development- Multicultural Programs and Services.