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Monday, March 04, 2024

Frances Rivera was afraid to be her true self. Neither her friends nor her sorority sisters knew who she really was, she told a crowd gathered in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom on Friday night.

But one day during her sophomore year, Rivera, now a senior, decided to stand up and let her sorority sisters know.

"I have something important to tell you," she said, reading from a monologue about the day. "I don't know how you're going to take it, but I'm not going to lie to myself or you. I am a bisexual woman, and I hope and pray you will accept me for me because I am still Frances Rivera," said Rivera, who belongs to the UF chapter of Gamma Eta Sorority.

Rivera said the room went silent. All she could think about was the negativity she set herself up for, she said.

She then said that one member stood up and said, "I am an ally. I'm your sister, and I will love you for you no matter what your lifestyle may be."

Now Rivera is proud of who she is and no longer feels scared.

Rivera's monologue was one of several featured at the LGBTQ Welcome Assembly.

The assembly was thrown by a collaboration of student and university organizations, including the Pride Student Union, LGBT Affairs and Student Government's LGBTQ Student Affairs Cabinet.

These departments serve the university's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning communities, as well as their allies.

The assembly kicked off with members of the organizations and students singing their rendition of ABBA's "Momma Mia" called "Homo Mia." Throughout the event there were video clips, poetry readings and guest speakers.

Gene Zdziarski, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students, and Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, spoke at the event.

"You're not alone here at the University of Florida," Telles-Irvin said. "If you ever find yourself in a particular situation or find obstacles, there's a system, there's support."

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Hugh Clarke, a third-year transfer student from Indian River Community College, said he attended the assembly to see what the Pride Student Union had to offer for students.

Clarke said he definitely plans to get involved. The two video clips were the most captivating part for him. They made him feel glad to be a part of UF and the community, he said.

About 300 students attended the assembly, said Nora Spencer, director of LGBT affairs. The event was sponsored by Weeks of Welcome through the Dean of Students Office. It cost about ,950 total, Spencer said.

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