PEORIA — By popular demand, Methodist College is hosting a series of informational events focusing on the LGBTQ population June 4 through July 14.

One of the questions that will be answered: “What is LGBTQ?”

“One of the breakout sessions will be on language,” said Eileen Setti, chair of the school's Department of Career Pathways & Continuing Education. Attendees will learn lingo used by LGBTQ individuals, including learning that LGBTQ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning.

The event is happening at the request of area health-care and human service organizations to fill a need. While most doctors, nurses, counselors and teachers have the best intentions, they may not have a good understanding of the LGBTQ population.

“I think in general we support these folks, but because we often don’t know what to say or do, I think we shy away," said Setti. "These events will give us the opportunity to better understand and serve these communities.”

The event will kick off with the exhibit “Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics and Culture.” Developed by the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, the informational exhibit shows how people living with HIV and AIDS have changed politics and culture. Along with the exhibit, a panel from the National AIDS Memorial Quilt will also be on display.

“Each 3-foot by 6-foot panel of the quilt is made by a friend or family member on behalf of their loved one who has died from AIDS. Just think of the love and care that that person would put into that quilt square,” said Setti. “A total of 48,000 panels make up the quilt. We don’t know which one we’re gonna get.”

A free open house from 6 to 7:30 p.m. June 4 will feature a panel discussion to raise awareness and discuss current issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. Dr. Magda Houlberg, chief clinical officer at Howard Brown Health in Chicago, the nation's largest LGBTQ organization, will talk about how a lack of data on the LGBTQ community is causing members to fall through the cracks in both health-care and human service systems.

“On any sort of government document they will ask you gender and race, but they don’t ask about your sexual orientation,” said Setti. “The LGBTQ population misses out on care because we don’t track data on those types of people. Gay youth are often homeless because they get kicked out of the house by families who don’t agree with their lifestyle ... but we don’t ask people why they are homeless. The same is true for substance abuse — we believe there is a high number of LGBTQ folks who are substance abusers because of the social pressures they face, but if we aren’t tracking the data on this population, we don’t know if there are high rates of substance abuse.”

Also participating in the panel discussion will be Deric Kimler, executive director of Central Illinois Friends. He will talk about a goal some communities have set for no new HIV infections. At the end of the presentations, the audience will be able to ask questions to drive the evening’s discussion.

On June 7, the Methodist College Department of Continuing Education will present the "2nd Annual Wellness Forum: Providing Holistic Care to the LGBTQ Community." Topics range from helping teachers meeting the needs of LGBTQ youths to recognizing the early signs of Alzheimer’s in LGBTQ individuals, who are more likely to be living in isolation because of social stigma. A highlight of the day will be when Bradley University sophomore Beckett Kenny speaks about his experience coming out of the closet while he was a student at Richwoods High School.

“He gathered up a group of friends, and they really changed the fabric of Richwoods High School, not just for the LGBTQ community, but from a perspective of inclusion,” said Setti. “Last year he was the prom king, and a young Muslim woman wearing the headwrap was the queen. And the student body was just crazy about these two.”

While the wellness forum is aimed at health-care providers, social workers, teachers and counselors, anyone with an interest in the topic is encouraged to attend. The fee ranges from $25 to $100 and includes lunch. Register at http://www.methodistcol.edu/wellness-forum.

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.