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A new event will focus on conversation, education and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students and their allies at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

The first LGBTQ Ally Day will begin with a brownbag lunch at noon Wednesday, April 14, in the LGBTQ Resource Center, 717 W. Irving St. Joe Wiedenmeier, president of Oshkosh’s Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) chapter, will speak.

“Joe will speak of how this organization came to Oshkosh, what it offers its members and the community, and how he became involved in the organization,” said Liz Cannon, LGBTQ Resource Center director.

LGBTQ Ally Day continues at 5 p.m., when the doors of Kolf Sports Center, 785 High Ave., for a meet and greet, followed at 5:30 p.m. by a program that will include speakers who will emphasize the importance of being LGBTQ allies, including Katie Belanger, director of Fair Wisconsin.

The idea for Ally Day came to Cannon while working with Kim Charniak, a clinical social worker from the University’s Counseling Center to build an Ally Mentoring Program.

“The overall goal of the event is to show through the number of participants that there are many people on the Oshkosh campus and in the community — both queer and straight — who are dedicated to creating an LGBTQ-friendly campus and community,” Cannon said. “This event is a time to educate students, faculty, staff and community members on why allies are so important to members of the LGBTQ community,” Cannon said.

At 6:30 p.m., participants will march to downtown Oshkosh, where UW Oshkosh student and MenCARE co-director Troy Landry will give an ally pledge in support of the LGBTQ community.

Cannon sees the UWO campus climate as increasingly supportive to LGBTQ individuals. For example, more than 100 staff members attended a webinar in summer 2009 titled “How to make your campus more LGBTQ-friendly” — the webinar that prompted the creation of a Campus Pride Index Taskforce.

“UW Oshkosh is making progress to becoming a more accepting environment by creating the LGBTQ Resource Center and by embracing the wider definition of diversity that includes sexuality and gender expression set forth in the new inclusive excellence initiative,” Cannon said.

For more information about Ally Day or the LGBTQ community at UW Oshkosh, visit www.uwosh.edu/lgbtqcenter.

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