UC Riverside to host gay Middle Eastern and South Asian student conference

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Megan Awwad is proudly Palestinian. But she’s also attracted to other women. And reconciling those two identities can be difficult, because she fears rejection from her family and Palestinian community.

“Family and community are very important culturally,” Awwad said. “Being open means you risk losing that and the support you get from that.”

Awwad is helping organize a conference Saturday at UC Riverside that will bring together lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and “queer” Middle Eastern and South Asian students to talk about shared experiences and challenges. Queer is a longtime slur now reclaimed by many LGBT people and is deliberately non-specific.

Nearly 200 people from throughout California have signed up for the event, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. The gathering, called the Tabla Conference, also is open to straight “allies.” The tabla is a drum common in the Middle East and South Asia.

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