The University’s Queer Student Cultural Center and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Programs Office celebrated National Coming Out Week this week with a variety of events and activities geared toward gay pride and visibility.
National Coming Out Day has been celebrated annually since the 1988 gay and lesbian March on Washington, but QSCC decided to extend the celebration to a week-long event, said sophomore and QSCC co-chair Amber Kay.
“The idea is that if you want the world to be open to you, you have to be open to it,” Kay said. “We want people to see how much of a community there really is and to devote a week to support and visibility.”
The events began with a Tuesday discussion “Coming Out Then and Now,” presented by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Alumni Group.
On Wednesday QSCC and Radio K hosted the National Coming Out Day Rally on the West Bank Plaza in front of Willey Hall. The rally featured a lavender closet door which 50 students walked through as a symbol of declaring their sexuality.
Guest speakers from various campus organizations were also featured. Antonio Cardona, a humanities education sophomore and QSCC student administrative assistant, spoke at the rally about the purpose of National Coming Out Day.
“The point was to say that we want to be visible and we’re not going to accept any kind of second-class citizenship,” Cardona said.
He said he believes the best way to produce change is for gays to be open with their sexuality.
“We need to normalize things, and show that our relationships are just as valid as anybody else’s,” Cardona said.
Before speaking at the event, Cardona said he was confronted by a young boy who told him not to go outside because there were “bad men out there.” QSCC members said this exemplifies one of the main concerns of GLBT community — the socialization of homophobia.
Homophobia has been visible throughout the week, said Alison Blomster, University of Minnesota-Morris graduate and QSCC office coordinator. Blomster said many of the group’s fliers have been ripped up or burned.
“This is a really backhanded way to deal with these feelings,” Blomster said. “And it is also a ridiculous waste of students’ money. When fliers are destroyed, we simply make more which wastes both money and trees.”
Additionally, she said the group was told there is a policy against chalking on the West Bank, which limited their ability to promote events. Blomster said the chalking policy could be legitimate, but noted that chalking by other groups hasn’t been erased.
Despite setbacks, QSCC co-chair Jason Vorbeck said the events have been very positive, focusing on advancements made in GLBT rights.
He cites the addition of a GLBT major and minor to the University curriculum — as well as the legalization of civil unions in Vermont and increasing amounts of legislation against harassment based on sexual orientation — as signs of progress.
Another focus of the week is voter registration, Vorbeck said.
“We are really encouraging students, especially those within the GLBT community, to vote,” he said. “The more GLBT-registered voters, the more GLBT issues will be focused upon.”
Today the Queer Graduate and Professional Association presents a discussion “The History/Controversy With the Word Queer” at the QSCC 720 Washington Avenue office.
The discussion will focus on different meanings attached to the word, as well as the GLBT community’s reclaiming and using it in a positive, inclusive way.
Additionally, a “Drag and Dance” party will be held tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel on Washington Avenue.
National Coming Out Week culminates Saturday in a “Queer Movie Night” double feature at the West Bank Auditorium in Willey Hall. Starting at 7 p.m., the auditorium will present “Beautiful Thing” and “The Celluloid Closet,” both of which have gay themes.
Jessica Thompson welcomes comments at (612) 627-4070 x3232. She can also be reached [email protected]