Lauren Ruth – Staff Writer
Gustavus is hosting Coming Out Week as a celebration of LGBTQIA+ community. Gustavus has been taking part in the day of LGBTQIA+ awareness for years. The week coincides with National Coming Out day on Monday, Oct. 11. This week particularly focuses on the coming out process and recognizes its significance. “The celebration is a way of telling our community and the world that we are not ashamed of our identities,” said Assistant Professor in Physics and Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies and Queers and Allies advisor Darsa Donelan.
National Coming Out day was inaugurated in 1988, the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987. Activists at the time felt it was important to maintain positivity and celebrate coming out. National Coming Out Day is a reminder for LGBTQIA+ students that one of the most basic and powerful tools is coming out.
This week is spearheaded by the Queers and Allies student organization on campus. Queers and Allies is a group that connects LGBTQIA+ students to new friends and gives those students an outlet to express themselves and their experiences.
The group also provides educational opportunities not available in classrooms.
Coming out is a process of understanding, accepting, and valuing one’s sexual orientation and identity. It is a process that involves “both exploring your identity and sharing it with others”. Coming out may look different for certain people. Sometimes coming out can be a gradual process or one that happens all at once.
Coming out can be a difficult process. “You may feel ashamed, isolated, and afraid,” said Donelan. Our society enforces strict codes of behavior regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Most people receive the message that they must.
Although coming out may be difficult, members of the LGBTQIA+ community also say it can be a liberating and freeing process. Members feel that by coming out they can finally be authentically themselves and are able to find a community of people for support.
Gustavus has done many things to support LGBTQIA+ students and community. It was imperative that LGBTQIA+ students have physical space to gather, study, and access resources. The Center of Inclusive Excellence was created for that purpose, among many others. Gustavus also funds and supports programs such as Queer & Questioning to aid in the self-discovery and coming out process.
Queers and Allies recommend that each member of the community also does their part in supporting and recognizing the LGBTQIA+ community at Gustavus. Club members recommend posting safe space signs in one’s offices and dorm rooms. This designates the area as a “safe zone” where discrimination is not tolerated. It is also important to stand up against homophobia and hold people accountable for their actions by speaking up.
The club also urges professors to integrate LGBTQIA+ topics into their curriculums to educate. Community members can also take steps to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Being an ally means so much more than just tolerating members of the LGBTQIA+ community. “An ally is someone who has a genuine, strong concern for the well-being of LGBTQIA+ people,” said Donelan. An ally not only supports and accepts LGBTQIA+ people but also advocates for equal rights and fair treatment.