The student organization Queer Straight Alliance works to make UNM a fun, secure and accepting place for all people and to advocate for equality and human rights. The group aims to provide a risk-free, judgment-free environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning, or LGBTQ, students to come together, discuss prominent issues and promote change.

"QSA works to provide a safe and supportive environment for all UNM students regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Adam Quintero, QSA chair. "Providing a space where students can be comfortable with themselves without fear of judgment or discrimination is something that is very necessary for UNM students, especially incoming freshmen and sophomores. Many of them come from small New Mexico communities or homes where it is unacceptable to be gay, so QSA offers many of them the opportunity to be open about their sexuality for the first time in their lives."

Last year, the group organized several events to promote LGBTQ acceptance and rights in UNM and Albuquerque communities. Members marched in the Pride Parade in June, encouraged people to be open about their sexual orientation on National Coming Out Day, put on their dancing shoes for the group's first annual drag show and prom, and reached out to youth by presenting bullying prevention workshops at middle and high schools throughout Albuquerque.

QSA sponsored events increase attention to LGBTQ issues and their visibility on campus, brings the gay and straight worlds together, and heightens interest in their organization.

The group's work has not been overlooked. The Albuquerque Pride Organization and the Alibi named the group the 2010 OUTstanding GLBT Organization and Quintero was nominated for OUTstanding GLBT Leader.

QSA's membership has increased as more students have come to identify with the group.

"I joined QSA because I am passionate about fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community and thought it would be a great place to start," said Shelby Wosick, QSA advocacy chair.

Growing from 20 active members in fall 2008 to 60 in 2010 allowed the group to become more active in the community.

"This year QSA lobbied in Santa Fe at the Roundhouse in support of the domestic partnership bill, SB 183," Quintero said. "I definitely want to do more of these types of events in the upcoming year, so that the QSA engages more in LGBTQ advocacy work and more of our members become active in LGBTQ issues affecting N.M."

Other events the group plans to be involved in this year include National Coming Out Day, a Halloween party, National Day of Silence, AIDS Walk, Relay for Life, Duke City 5k Marathon, Albuquerque Pride Pageant, Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and National Transgender Day of Remembrance. The second annual Drag Show Extravaganza, Eleganza is on Saturday, Nov. 13, 7-9:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building ballrooms.

"For this year's show, we will have more Drag Queens and Kings competing for the titles of Mr. UNM Drag King and Miss UNM Drag Queen 2010," Quintero said.

QSA was instrumental in establishing a new LGBTQ Resource Center. UNM celebrates its opening on Friday, Aug. 27, 12:30-2 p.m. at the Resource Center in Building 20A on the corner of Roma and Buena Vista Avenues, near Dane Smith Hall.

"It will function in a similar manner as the Women's Resource Center and the ethnic centers, though it will specifically cater to the unique needs of the LGBTQ community on campus," said David Griffith, LGBTQ Resource Center program assistant. "This initiative will further embrace the diversity of the student body of UNM."