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Low attendance expected for LGBTQ History Month events, coordinator says

Student Programs Coordinator Alison Garcia said she expects attendance for the events to celebrate LGBTQ History Month to be low. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) is hosting events to celebrate LGBTQ History Month, from panel sessions and a drag show, but organizers are not optimistic about student turnout. 

Activities kicked off with the LGBTQ Showcase on Oct. 4 and will continue for the rest of month. The last event will be the OMA Drag Show on Nov. 2 at the St. Pete campus, according to Student Programs Coordinator Alison Garcia.

Attendance so far has been lower for most events and Garcia predicted that trend will continue.

The Bull Market kickoff event saw 300 students attend and the LGBTQ Career Panel had five students.

Garcia said she attributes the low attendance to the current political climate. Different legislation has passed in Florida that targets the LGBTQ community. The bills restrict transgender healthcare and bathroom use, minors from attending drag shows and school instruction around gender identity and sexual orientation. 

“We’ve also noticed that because of everything going on in the state it’s been harder to get people to want to be out and loud about it,” Garcia said.

The Centre Gallery opening reception will take place on Oct. 23 from 6-7 p.m. and will showcase art by LGBTQ student artists. 

A film screening for the movie “Love, Simon” will take place on Oct. 26 from 7-8:30 p.m. and will provide students an opportunity to swim, eat popcorn and enjoy the movie. The screening will take place at the FIT pool.

The exception for low attendance is the National Coming Out Day dinner, which sold out last year and is expected to have a full house of around 130 seats this year, Garcia said.

The dinner will take place on Oct. 18 from 5-7 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom. It will feature speakers sharing their coming out stories, a poetry reading by lesbian author Sheree L. Greer, a performance by nonbinary professional dancer Maxfield Haynes followed and a Q&A session. 

The budget for each of these events varies, with online events like the LGBTQ Career Panel costing no money and events like the LGBTQ film screening costing around $50 to pay for snacks. 

The Coming Out Day dinner cost around $8,000 and is partially funded by a $5,000 donation from the Giving Fund with USF foundations, according to Garcia.

Garcia said she feels it’s important that the university hosts these events to show there is a safe and welcoming space on campus. 

“I also want them to know that there’s people around them who support them and who might have an idea for a resource or something that they can provide for them. So I don’t want them to feel alone,” she said. 

“We want to do whatever we still can do,” Garcia said. “It’s definitely been a challenge and I anticipate it to be a challenge as long as these political events go on, but we’ll see. I think I’m hopeful.”