The 16th annual Queer Pride Week at UCSB culminates with a wedding ceremony today at noon in Storke Plaza.
Tanya Paperny, Queer Student Union (QSU) co-chair, and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young will officiate symbolic marriages for both straight and queer couples — who will receive a free ring, flowers and a certificate of marriage. Sign-ups have been available in Resource Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity (RCSGD), the Women’s Center and Women’s Studies Dept. throughout the week, but people may still get hitched without a reservation. Paperny said all are welcome to be married or just to show support for the ceremony and the queer community.
“This wedding is part political protest, part personal experience, based on negative experiences many queer couples have had,” Paperny said. “It will be a good time to show some support.”
The event, sponsored by QSU, is part of a weeklong queer pride celebration at UCSB, which started last Friday.
The wedding is being paid for through grants from university residence halls, Associated Students Finance Board and various other campus departments, Paperny said. Kaleidoscope Flowers in Santa Barbara is providing flowers for the newlyweds.
About 20 couples have already signed up, but Paperny said she expects 100 to 150 people to attend the ceremony because of the uproar caused at Monday’s kick-off rally.
At the rally, Los Angeles resident Paul Johnson carried a sign with biblical quotes and shouted many anti-queer slogans. The crowd of about 60 people grew to double its size Monday to watch Johnson.
“Given the climate of the rest of the week, it should be the biggest turnout yet,” Paperny said.
Audience members responded in unison to Johnson’s rhetoric, she said.
“Emcee Jessica Eve Humphrey led the crowd in a group singing of ‘I Will Survive,’ directed at him,” Paperny said. “Imagine 150 people singing ‘I Will Survive’ as loud as they can. It was pretty amazing.”
The queer wedding comes after a string of workshops, activities and lectures about queer issues this week. Monday night concluded with a screening of the film “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” at Ellison Hall.
On Tuesday, organizers held a workshop about problems with passing as a certain gender or sexuality, Paperny said. That night, people were welcomed to a queer variety night at the MultiCultural Center Theatre which hosted, among others, performances by singer and songwriter Stephanie Lee, nationally acclaimed slam poet Theo Burns and a local burlesque troupe “Ethel and the Pantyraids.”
“Ethel and the Pantyraids were great,” Paperny said. “They put on an entertaining show complete with dancing and even a little stripping.”
Wednesday played host to a variety of queer activities, including a Queer Family Feud and a discussion on queers in the military led by political science professor Aaron Belkin, Paperny said. Similarly, on Thursday organizers hosted two workshops, one on how to be a better ally in the queer community and another titled Intersecting Identities and Pride. In addition, an all day art-making activity took place on the Women’s Center lawn.
Kyle A. Richards, RCSGD director, said he has been with the university for three years and said he feels this year’s queer week celebration is on par with predecessors.
“Once again, the students have put a lot of hard work into a great week of events,” Richards said.
Regardless of their activism, many queers struggle to find acceptance on campus, Paperny said.
“There is still blatant homophobia, hatred, oppression, and discrimination against queer students, even walking down the streets of I.V.,” Paperny said. “Straight couples hold hands and it’s cute — queer couples do it and it’s flaunting their sexuality. Some people get really uncomfortable when others have pride in their sexuality. We still have a lot to work on.”