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Rainbow Alliance offers confidential support

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by Rima Thompson
Staff Writer

In a recent meeting, Rainbow Alliance members were shown video clips of individuals who talked about being openly gay or lesbian, and how difficult it was for them to come out.

The Rainbow Alliance held meetings on Oct. 11 and 16 in Founders Hall, room 20 for University of La Verne community members interested in an open discussion about the coming out process and health issues.

The president of the club, senior Ignacio Urena, also talked about his experiences with coming out.

Coming out is a life-long process., Urena said.

He said most in attendance were a bit reluctant to talk about their personal struggles, and instead talked more about others’ reactions to them.

In the second meeting, Juan Escobedo from East Valley Community Hospital, was the guest speaker, and spoke mostly about high-risk sexual behaviors and gave some statistics regarding the amount of reported AIDS diagnoses for different races.

“He handed out packets, and in 2001, there was a report of about 300,000 for whites, 200,000 for African Americans and 100,000 for Latinos,” Urena said.

The Rainbow Alliance was established to support and unite the gay, bisexual and transgender community on campus, as well as to educate those in a heterosexual community about human sexuality.

“Our hope is that we are welcomed with open arms, being that it is a college that is liberal,” said Kirsten Johnson, vice president. “We are here, proud and welcome all.”

There have been several previous attempts to establish a club uniting non-heterosexuals, but for various reasons, the attempts were unsuccessful.

The Rainbow Alliance was formerly called Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies.

Urena said the name change was because the previous name excluded some minority groups.

Heterosexuals are invited to attend meetings; confidentiality regarding personal issues discussed is strictly enforced.

Urena said he did not face much resistance in forming the club last year, though he did expect to get negative reactions from students.

“I can tell most of the time how people react. You can feel when some are uncomfortable. I have experienced it from both sides.

“After I was voted president I knew the club would have to deal with this type of behavior,” Urena said.

It took about a year to draft a constitution for the club, which includes four major goals aimed at creating a safer environment for sexual minorities.

These goals include education and awareness of such issues as health, representation within the media and civil rights, unity of its members to help provide a safer environment, advocacy by having open forums for both non-members and members to discuss issues of discrimination that is brought to the club’s attention and services which can include health/mental health and safer sex practices.

In addition to the usual Web site and flyers to disseminate information about the club, occasionally members have booths set up for public accessibility to AIDS awareness ribbons or pamphlets addressing such issues as safe sex and sexually transmitted diseases.

As part of Homecoming Week, the Rainbow Alliance, as well as other University clubs, closed down Third Street on Oct. 19 to set up fundraising booths.

The Rainbow Alliance’s booth was a demonstration on AIDS and HIV awareness.

They handed out pamphlets and received $22 in donations for one of their members to participate in last Sunday’s AIDS Walk in West Hollywood.

“If you ever feel like an outcast or have been oppressed, don’t be ashamed of who you are, and don’t allow people to take your dignity from you,” Urena said.

This shouldn’t be an option. This is why the club is here,” Urena continued.

The club’s next meeting will be 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 25 in Founders Hall, room 20.

The topic of discussion will be the history on gay and lesbians, and a video called “Coming Out From The Past”, will be shown to those who participate in the meeting.

For more information on the Rainbow Alliance, visit http://clubs.ulv.edu/~rainbow/.

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