Penn celebrates LGBT-awareness week

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Students, faculty and staff at the University of Pennsylvania will take part in a series of LGBT-awareness events next week, continuing a tradition that dates back more than 25 years.

QPenn Week, March 22-29, will feature lectures, activities and social gatherings that heighten the visibility and influence of the university’s very active, but often under-recognized, LGBT community.

Marianne Mondt, Penn senior and publicity chair for QPenn Week, said the theme of this year’s event, “Embrace the Rainbow,” a takeoff on Skittles’ motto “Taste the Rainbow,” exemplifies the diversity of the LGBT community.

“We thought that with ‘Embrace the Rainbow,’ we could show that there are seven different colors to the rainbow itself and that shows the whole spectrum of differences that exist within our own community,” Mondt said.

Mondt said QPenn Week strives to give a voice and a face to Penn’s LGBT community.

“Since we’re a minority on campus and the LGBT community is usually considered an invisible minority, we use QPenn week to show our presence,” she said. “We want to raise awareness and also just have fun.”

The fun will kick off with a QPenn Week launch party at 6 p.m. March 22 at the Fox Art Gallery, 249 S. 36th St.

The next night, the community can meet with Dr. Suzanne Dibble, adjunct professor at the University of California’s Institute for Health & Aging who specializes in LGBT health issues, at 6 p.m. at Penn’s LGBT Center, 3907 Spruce St.

Out comedian Kate Clinton is the keynote speaker for QPenn Week and will take the stage at 8 p.m. March 23 in the Harrison Auditorium.

“She’ll be performing stand-up for about 45 minutes and also talking about some of the issues that the LGBT community is facing,” Mondt said. “We’re expecting a great turnout for that event. Everyone’s really excited to get the chance to see her.”

Tickets for the event are $10 and can be purchased at Penn’s LGBT Center as well as at Giovanni’s Room, 345 S. 12th St.

Penn’s nine LGBT student organizations will spearhead more than a dozen other events throughout the week, including a presentation by mtvU vice president of marketing Chris McCarthy; the screening of “Beyond Beats & Rhymes,” which looks at homophobia in hip-hop culture, with filmmaker Byron Hurt; a queer cooking series and a Quizzo competition.

At 7 p.m. March 27, the Queer Student Alliance will present its third-annual drag show at The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St. The event, which is $7, serves as a fundraiser for local nonprofits, and Mondt said this year the group will split the proceeds between two area organizations.

Half of the money will be donated to Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutritional Alliance, which provides meals to individuals with life-threatening illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, and the other portion will benefit the Vivek A. Patel Foundation.

Patel, who graduated from Penn last year and died last month, was active in the school’s LGBT community and, before he graduated, organized a university-wide gala that raised $8,000 for HIV/AIDS causes.

“He was a big advocate on campus, and we wanted to honor his memory with this,” Mondt said.

While the QPenn Week events are usually dominated by LGBT students, faculty and staff, the organizers are also hoping the activities draw a contingent of allies so they can learn more about Penn’s vibrant LGBT community, Mondt said.

“Every year a large proportion of the activities are attended by the LGBT community, but also heterosexual people come and attend. Part of the rainbow is the heterosexual allies; without them it’d be even harder to get our presence across.”

For more information on QPenn Week, visit www.dolphin.upenn.edu/lambdaal/qpenn/.

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].