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El Paso Sun City pride fest promotes awareness

Andrés Rodríguez/ The Prospector

On June 8, the El Paso Sun City Pride organization held a block party in front of Cleveland Park as part of their 7th annual pride week. Attendees were able to enjoy talent shows, art, music, food and each other’s company.

Hundreds of attendees made their way downtown to enjoy an evening of activities in participation of promoting awareness of the LGBT community in El Paso. Multiple organizations had booths setup that promoted voter registration, opportunities for internships and scholarships, art and the importance of having representation in the community.

According to Aaron Waggoner, women studies and engendering community project member, these events and projects are about representation and creating a visual of the community for the rest of the city.

Waggoner is a doctoral student in history specializing on borderlands and is working with Brenda Risch, assistant professor, on a project that will document the photography, literature and testimonials of LGBT individuals in El Paso and Juarez. According to him, the UTEP women studies program has been involved with the LGBT community and next year’s pride week will kickoff the opening of the exhibit at the centennial museum.

Waggoner said that this project will be a reflection of a community that had been disregarded by the community leaders.

“There are plenty of people of power who do not respect her work (Risch) or ours,” he said. “There is strong institutional biases in the community.”

He also pointed out that UTEP was not a sponsor of the event, but El Paso Community College was.

During the event, four scholarships were awarded to one absent recipient, two college students including Waggoner and one high school senior, Sylvia Turnan.

Turnan is a senior at Andress High School and identifies herself as a lesbian. She explained that she applied for the scholarship because she plans on attending the nursing program at New Mexico State University.

As a requirement Turnan wrote three essays and in one included the memory of her deceased friend who took his own life. No one knew that he was being bullied she said. According to Turnan, her friend was being picked on because of his sexual orientation and that it hurt her to lose her friend.

“Sometimes we feel alone,” she said. “That’s why we have to celebrate who we are.”

Fernie Morales, sophomore digital media production major explained that the events are so that members of the LGBT can come out and be in a safe zone. He said that aside from the annual pride week, many of the members feel comfortable at clubs where they gather together.

He said that the LGBT community will be able to carry itself more openly very soon.

Rene Fernandez, sophomore marketing major said that the events are about inclusion. He explained that people need to recognize that it’s important for individuals to be themselves.

Fernandez also explained that participants need to know their health status and need to go through HIV testing. He said that during the organization’s pride week, “M Factor” which is part of the HIV Prevention program in El Paso’s Department of Public Health sponsored movie night.

“M Factor” has been a participant in the pride week’s events and has provided 60 second HIV tests for attendants.

According to their webpage, the M Factor is a social organization centered around Gay and Bi males and promotes the prevention of HIV infections.

Elizabeth Argo Wilbanks a spokesperson for the organization said that during large events, there is a convenience and generally more comfort to get tested. She explained that after getting tested, their patients are relieved whether or not they are infected.

“Some do test positive,” she said. “We do our best so they can still enjoy themselves.”

Wilbanks said that if initially a patient tests positive after the 60 second test, they are asked to participate in a more extensive lab test. She explained that the quicker test is a preliminary measure held at large events to help screen at a quicker rate.

La Fe care and Texas Tech Medical center run care clinics for HIV treatment Wilbanks said. As a way for prevention, the organization hands out condoms and lubricant for free.

“Having testing at these events gives participants extra opportunities,” she said. “People who are sexually active need to get HIV testing at least once a year just as they do with the dentist.”

Aaron Montes can be reached at [email protected]



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About the Contributor
Aaron Montes
Aaron Montes, Staff Photographer
Aaron Montes is a junior multimedia journalism student at the University of Texas at El Paso. He graduated from Burges High School in 2010, where he was the head photographer for three years with his yearbook organization, Hoofbeats, the newspaper, Stampede and a literary magazine, Pegasus. With The Prospector, Aaron has been a photographer, the photo editor and multimedia editor. His major contributions to the publication have come through coverage of the ASARCO and City Hall demolitions and with the bomb threat on campus March 28th. He plans on doing investigative reporting in political and economical issues in El Paso and nationally. He strives to become part of the Associated Press.
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El Paso Sun City pride fest promotes awareness