Students and faculty alike gathered in the Courtyard Café Monday evening to kick-off Coming Out Week with the annual event “Queer We Are.” The event, organized by Gustavus Queers & Allies (Q&A), provides an open forum for members of the LGBT community to share their stories of “coming out” and allows for allies to voice their accompanying support.
“I am so glad to be a part of this community. I love everyone,” Sophomore Mackenzie McCann said about how it feels to be in the audience for the event.This sentiment was echoed throughout the night.
“Queer We Are is a great opportunity to come out as a Q [queer] or an A [ally] and to share your experiences both in the past and your hopes for the future and to bond with everyone,” Sophomore Biology Major Nate Friedley said.
The number of years Q&A has existed at Gustavus or how many Queer We Are events have been held remain a mystery, even to Q&A Co-president Callie Wicklund.
“It’s difficult to tell. We don’t know how Q&A started. It’s taken a while for us to build a reputable reputation, and you can’t really track the history of a sporadic group,” Wicklund said.
This organization may have come from obscure beginnings, but the influence Q&A has on the Gustavus community is defineitely noticeable every year during Coming Out Week.
Q&A exists in order to provide a safe haven for those struggling with aspects of their identity and to provide a support system when necessary. The efforts of Q&A hit close to home especially this November with the addition of a controversial marriage amendment to the 2012 ballot.
First-year Leah Soule, who describes herself as “political,” said that while looking at schools she saw the “I am not a byproduct of my gender” poster campaign Gustavus initiated last spring. This as well as the welcoming community Gustavus portrays was part of the reason she chose to attend the college.
Soule, who spoke at the Queer We Are event, said she “[At Gustavus] anybody can be who they
want to be. I am going to be who I am, and I’m ready for this to not be a big deal.”
The audience felt admiration for those sharing their stories, including faculty members like Assistant Professor in Religion and Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies Blake Couey.
“I thought it was great. I’m inspired by their courage. Hearing about how welcoming they thought Gustavus is makes me that much happier to be a part of this community,” Couey said.
Sophomore Biology Major Saskia Raether was equally touched by the event.
“I think it’s really inspiring. They’re so great to come out against societal pressures. It always makes me cry. It’s my favorite event of the whole week.”
Fellow Co-president of Q&A, Tristan Fernstrom, said that Queer We Are is one of his favorite events.
“I am always really proud of the people that choose to share their stories. I hope we can continue to do it year after year,” he said.