QSCC hosts week of events

by Elizabeth Cook

BY elizabeth cook and amber schadewald

[email protected]

[email protected]

Wednesday is National Coming Out Day and the Queer Student Cultural Center will celebrate all week with luncheons, a rally and its annual drag show.

Tim Connolly, QSCC co-chair, said the group redesigned T-shirts it will hand out Wednesday at the rally. Anyone who “comes out” and literally walks through a door in front of Coffman Union will get a shirt printed with sexual identifiers such as “gay,” “bisexual,” “lesbian,” “transsexual,” “ally” and “me.”

The group wants people to understand that to come out, people need to be comfortable no matter how they identify themselves.

Lily Hanson, an art and astrophysics senior and QSCC member, stressed the importance of coming out this week or any.

“It’s virtually impossible to be comfortable with anyone around you if you’re not comfortable with yourself first,” she said.

Brooke Johnsen, a French senior and QSCC member, said Coming Out Week in particular is a great time to come out because it provides a sense of safety in numbers.

“You’re guaranteed a safety network,” Johnsen said. “You’re not the only one who came out.”

The week is also meant to increase awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues and bring people together to find resolutions.

“It’s a good focal point,” Johnsen said. “We need an event to help remember how difficult it is to come out.”

Connolly said the events give people a way to be out in an untraditional way and said he hopes the T-shirts will be worn not just this week, but throughout the year.

Even though the group encourages people to be “out loud and proud,” the events won’t push anyone to participate unwillingly, he said.

Exactly how many people generally come out during the week is not known, but Connolly said even the advertising inspired people to call the QSCC office for more information.

“Even if we just help one person out, it’s a success in my mind,” Connolly said.

An accepting campus

The University is an accepting campus for GLBT students, according to the Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students.

The guide ranked the University in the top 20 of 100 colleges across the country in August. The University scored 19 out of 20 points for gay friendliness because of the variety of student activities and groups, GLBT academic programs, local hangouts, queer student perspectives and resources.

The guide’s results came from 5,000 online interviews with GLBT students and 500 online interviews with staff members.

Anne Phibbs, director of the University’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Ally Services office, said that since the survey was administered, the one area the University lacked – a safe zone/safe space or ally program – has changed.

The program’s office now includes an ally program, which is for those inside and outside the community who want to help the community.

Graduate student Monica Delaney Elsner is one of those allies with many new goals and resources she’s hoping to start in the next month.

One is to go to residential halls to discuss sexuality, a topic of importance to all students, she said.

Allies also hope to start a GLBT support group for Asians and Pacific Islanders in the next month.

Ross Neely, a public policy graduate student at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, is also an ally.

Neely said he thinks he benefits as a straight man and hopes being an ally can help give everyone the same privileges.

Psychology senior Sarah Feingold is involved with the QSCC and is also the facilitator for Queer Women on campus.

Feingold said she joined QSCC during her first year at the University, after transferring from a small, private college in California that was not as accepting of her sexual orientation.

She said the only on-campus GLBT resource was a gay-straight alliance, which made a student choose one orientation.

The other community option was to travel 90 minutes to San Francisco, she said.

When she transferred to the University, she said, she realized how accepting the community was and also how many GLBT resources and places are in the area.

“Minnesota in general, or at least in the Twin Cities area, seems to be very liberal,” she said.

QSCC is an umbrella group for other student organizations, including Queer Women, Queer Men, Tranarchy and Friends & Allies.

“If you want to get involved, there’s a ton of opportunities,” Feingold said.

Change still needed

Phibbs said change is needed even with all the resources and events at the University.

“We could improve in all our campuses,” she said, “even though we have a lot to be proud of.”

Phibbs said she also is concerned with reaching out to nonwhite students within the GLBT community.

Beth Zemsky, a GLBT studies adjunct professor, said the University is accepting, but, like any large institution, it has a long way to go.

“There was a long period of time where (acceptance) got increasingly better,” she said.

But about 2000, anti-gay rhetoric started to infiltrate the campus, Zemsky said.

For example, political focus on gay marriage and the GLBT community has impacted the community, Zemsky said. In turn, students are influenced by these topics on campus.

She said GLBT studies, a minor offered through the department of gender, women and sexuality studies since 2004, is in line with the University’s positioning to become a top research school.

“One of the things that the University has progressed on is the way GLBT studies have grown,” she said.