Countywide : UCI Conference to Air Gay and Bisexual Issues

Gay, lesbian and bisexual issues will be discussed at an educational conference at UC Irvine next week, officials said.

Services for gay, lesbian and bisexual students, faculty and staff members at UCI are increasing on the campus, and the conference calls attention to various aspects of that community, organizers said.

"It's not just for gays or lesbians but for everyone to hear more about these issues," said Alice Parsons, manager of cultural events at UCI.

Activities will include local ministers discussing how religion intersects with sexuality, a panel about the status of gay and lesbian youth in Orange County and talks about the role of ethnicity in gay and lesbian issues.

For the first time, gay and lesbian students also will meet with members of UCI's fraternities and sororities.

The university's first support facility for members of those communities--The Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Resource Center--is set to open April 3.

"We're history-making," said Robert Gentry, associate dean of students. "There are about 20 centers kind of like this around the country. That's not a lot when you consider there are about 2,000 colleges and universities."

Gentry said counseling services and discussion of identity issues are important to young people struggling with their sexuality.

"When I was an undergraduate, I personally was kicked out of a counselor's office when I had gone to seek help on dealing with the feelings I had about my own sexuality," said Gentry, a former mayor of Laguna Beach who is gay. Now, students are able to discuss their questions more openly, he said.

Events will take place from Tuesday to Friday on the UCI campus. For more information, call (714) 824-7364.

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