UCSB’s Queer Student Union (QSU) will be kicking off its annual Queer Pride Week tonight at 8 with an opening dance party in the Graduate Student Association Lounge.

Tonight’s dance is one of 12 events QSU will be holding from Monday, April 25 to Friday, April 29. Events include lectures from keynote speakers Ryka Aoki De La Cruz, Jessica Humphrey and various student speakers. QSU will also hold five workshops to educate others about issues in the queer community. All events are free and open to the public.

Workshops will be dealing with issues such as sexual assault in queer communities, passing as a certain gender or sex, queers in the military and how to be a better ally to the queer community.

QSU co-chair Tanya Paperny said the idea behind Queer Pride Week is to provide a safe forum for students who belong to the queer community to be themselves.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize the need for a safe space for queer couples,” Paperny said. “A lot of times queer couples don’t feel comfortable just walking down DP – it’s not a safe space.”

In addition to educational events, QSU will also be providing entertainment such as a rainbow sherbet eating contest, a potluck movie night, a queer variety night, queer family feud and an arts and crafts afternoon.

“A lot of the events are just to empower members of the community and have a good time,” Paperny said.

The highlight of the week is the queer wedding, which will take place on April 29 at noon in Storke Plaza.

“I think what attracts a lot of people to our week is the queer wedding, it’s usually special to a lot of people and the biggest of our events,” Paperny said.

Lead by Vice Chancellor Michael Young, the queer wedding event allows any kind of couple or union to participate in a mock ceremony to demonstrate their love for each other or support for queer love in general. Each ceremony will include a ring, certificate and flowers, Paperny said.

“All of our events aim to let the campus know that there is a sizable population of queer people at UCSB,” QSU co-chair Raymond Meza said.

The theme for this year’s pride week is “Queer Dynamite Bursting with Pride.” Paperny said the theme is a take on a social event the organization coordinates every year called “queer bombing” where a group of queer students wear T-shirts that read “queer” on the front and “We recruit” on the back.

“The queer bombing T-shirts mock the stereotype that gays actively seek to turn everyone gay around them,” Paperny said.

All students or members of the community who wish to participate in Queer Pride Week can access a list of events and other information on QSU’s website at http://orgs.sa.ucsb.edu/qsu/.

“I think that this year’s events, despite drastic budget cuts, will be better than last year,” Meza said.