Author: Sarah Mofford
On Oct. 11, the Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) hosted Oxy’s Coming Out Day as part of Coming Out Week, which ran from Oct. 5-11. The goal of the week was to raise awareness of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Questioning and Intersex (LGBTQI) community campus-wide. “There are not a lot of people who know clubs like QSA exist,” said Christian Hernandez (sophomore).
National Coming Out Day was started by Dr. Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary in 1988 and is managed in the United States by the Human Rights Campaign, a group that lobbies for LGBTQI rights. College organizations, religious associations, and socio-political groups around the country hosted events in celebration of Coming Out Day. The Human Rights Campaign provided event suggestions and materials for organizations across the country to utilize during their own Coming Out Day events.
The largest event on National Coming Out Day this year was the National Equality March on Oct. 11. Reminiscent of the two Marches on Washington that inspired the first National Coming Out Day, Cleve Jones, a compatriot of Harvey Milk, and civil rights group Equality Across America organized the march. According to Time Magazine, over 200,000 people marched on the National Mall in Washington D.C. in recognition of Coming Out Day to rally the Obama administration to uphold promises concerning civil rights for LGBTQI communities.
On Oxy’s campus, the week’s events included QSA members passing out free cupcakes and rainbow pins in the quad on Monday, a screening by the Center for Gender Equity of the movie “But I’m a Cheerleader” on Tuesday, a Coming Out Party on Friday and a LGBTQI Community Dinner on Sunday. Also on Tuesday, the QSA and Black Student Alliance (BSA) invited Rev. Eric Lee, author of “Prop 8: The California Divide,” to speak about how California is currently divided by the political issues of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in the state in November of 2008.
“Reverend Lee is a prominent figure in the black community,” said BSA President Lindsey Fuller (senior). “As such, BSA attended the event to both support him and to become more informed about this controversial issue.”
Rev. Lee touched on the divisions within the black community surrounding LGBTQI issues. “His opinion that the LGBTQI [rights] issue is a civil rights issue is super duper awesome,” said Brian Cropper (first-year).
QSA President Jacob Goldstein (senior) said that the goal of the week was to unite the student body through a weeklong series of events and programs, all leading up to National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. “While the LGBTQI community – both at Oxy and nationally – is an incredibly diverse community, its members are united [in] the shared experience of ‘coming out,'” said Goldstein in an e-mail interview.
Goldstein explained that “coming out” is not always met with positive reactions, and many people find that revealing their sexual orientation can lead to negative consequences, like being kicked out of their house, their church, losing their job and so forth. “The goal of Coming Out Week is [to] reverse these negative connotations and make ‘coming out’ a celebratory event,” said Goldstein. “The week’s events and programs are geared so that students who are questioning their sexuality will know that coming out can be a positive process, and that Oxy is a supportive and accepting community.”
Organizers stressed the need for events promoting awareness, pointing to a 2003 national school climate survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educator’s Network which said, “Three-quarters of youth reported that they felt unsafe in their schools due to one or more personal characteristics.”
In the presence of political and social pressures concerning sexual orientation, QSA looked to emphasize acceptance and support. “If there’s one message that I hope that all students – gay or straight – took from the week, it is that there IS a LGBTQI presence on campus. We might be a smaller community, but we are out, vocal and passionately working to create a more welcoming and accepting on-campus environment,” said Goldstein.
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