Pride Awareness Month at UF, cited as the largest student-run LGBTQ+ series of events and celebrations in the country, kicked off Monday night.
Executive director Shawn Janetzke said the goal of the monthlong event is to celebrate and bask in the progress the LGBTQ+ community has made and to celebrate its strength.
“For a school in the South, we have an overwhelming amount of support from the administration, Student Government and the Gainesville community,” Janetzke said.
This is the first year that Pride Awareness Month has been intentional in giving under-represented parts of the LGBTQ+ community a voice and a platform, he said. Dialogues and events focusing on the intersections of various identities are expected.
“We are making the typical ‘gay-only’ programs a thing of the past,” Janetzke said.
There are more than 24 events that will take place throughout the month, including the return of a free concert April 15, showcasing Mary Lambert, the female vocalist in Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ hit song “Same Love.”
Aldo Araujo, a 20-year-old UF public relations sophomore, said he attended the Pride Awareness Month drag show last year.
“This was a great chance to learn about gay culture and how drag queens are such a large part of it,” he said. “It was definitely very eye-opening to see how awesome it was because I didn’t know what to expect.”
Araujo said he is excited about the chance to become more immersed in the LGBT community at UF and to connect with fellow students who also support the cause.
“Being a gay student myself, I feel like I should become more involved in raising awareness in being prideful of who you are,” Araujo said.
Hiram Martinez-Cabrera, a 20-year-old UF public relations sophomore, said he has helped organize Pride Awareness Month in previous years and is a member of the UF Pride Student Union.
“In the week leading up to the event, your heart is breaking; you have Starbucks cups all over your room; you have bags under your eyes, and you have gray hair growing,” Martinez-Cabrera said.
He said he enjoyed his time as a director, but as a spectator for this year’s events, he is appreciative of the other students and seeing what Pride Awareness Month means to them.
“This isn’t just a resume builder,” Martinez-Cabrera said. “We do this because we love it. We work hard, we try hard, and the university really supports us.”
[A version of this story ran on page 9 on 3/18/2014 under the headline "Pride Awareness Month brings celebrities, drag queens to UF"]