Gay students ‘come out’ in annual celebration

Geoffrey Ziezulewicz

The University’s Queer Student Cultural Center kicked off National Coming Out Week with a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rally outside Coffman Union on Monday.

Under a gray autumn sky, GLBT students symbolically came out of the closet through a lavender door next to information tables.

Andy Birkey, an independent studies senior and co-chairman of the Queer Student Cultural Center, said the GLBT celebration is in its eighth year and is beneficial for students and the University.

“It is good for (the University community) to know GLBT students personally,” he said. “It takes away from the fear and misunderstandings that can happen.”

Birkey said the week of activities, including Monday’s rally and Friday’s drag king show, are important for University GLBT students and their friends.

“Being GLBT can be difficult, especially on campus,” Birkey said. “We are here for students who need our support and for the students who want to support us.”

The University is the first place some GLBT students can come out, Birkey said. The University offers GLBT students an accepting environment to come out when their families or hometowns might not be as understanding, he said.

The cultural center helps GLBT students with the adjustment to University life and a more hospitable atmosphere, he said.

“The University lets you become the person you are, gay or straight,” he said.

“If I was any straighter, I would be horizontal,” said Jason Harrell, a history senior who attended the rally to show support for a friend involved with the cultural center. Harrell said he also attended to broaden his mind.

“There is no such thing as wasted knowledge,” he said.

Decked out in a gay pride rainbow shirt, Goldy Gopher waved to interested and indifferent passers-by. Rita Shimeles, an undecided first-year student, stopped for a rainbow sticker and some literature.

Shimeles said she stopped because she came from a two-mother household.

“I believe in gay pride, and I think they should represent it more,” she said, adding that she particularly enjoys Minnesota’s brand of GLBT pride.

“In Minnesota, it’s great. You go down South, and it’s not like that at all,” she said.

Work, community and family education graduate student Matt Eichler, sporting a gay pride sticker, said the rally is not about pummeling people with the GLBT viewpoint.

“People think the coming out thing is about people showing off or flaunting, but it’s about being out there in the world,” Eichler said.

In the Coffman basement, the Maranatha Christian Fellowship table held literature on the group’s position on homosexuality.

Grant Buse, campus minister for the fellowship, said the Queer Student Cultural Center has the same right to let its views be known as his group.

“More Christians should come out of the closet and start sharing their faith,” he said.