On a campus as large and diverse as ours, it is easy to believe that there are unique individuals everywhere. It is not surprising, then, to learn of a group of people who are making a marked effort to display their true colors to the entire campus community and educate others to understand their way of life.
Oct. 10 marked the beginning of the annual National Coming Out Week Celebration at UCI, with a host of activities geared towards promoting honesty and openness about being lesbian, gay or transgender.
The event kicked off with a documentary viewing at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center.
The Oct. 13 festivites continue at 10 a.m. with the National Coming Out Day/Gay American Smoke Out Resource Fair outside the Administration Building and continue through that evening and the rest of the week with such highlights as an open-mic night at the Cyber-A Cafe, a Coming Out bonfire sponsored by the Irvine Queers club on Oct. 14, and a performance of the student play ‘Santa Claus is Coming Out’ on Oct. 19.
With such fun up ahead, it might seem easy to overlook the fact that beneath the celebratory spirit of National Coming out Week lies a serious purpose.
Its purpose is to provide a safe haven of love, respect and comfort that has perhaps never been known to people who have had their share of struggles that result from their ties to things like family, religion or society.
For those unsure as to whether or not they are ready to come out, the main participants of the events wish to serve as examples of hope in demonstrating that people who may be struggling with this issue are not alone.
In addition, the events provide an opportunity for the co-hosting organizations Irvine Queers and the Gay Straight Alliance to establish deeper ties with the greater campus community.
National Coming Out Week at UCI has its origins in National Coming Out Day, an event that was founded by a group of gay and lesbian activists after a 1987 march in Washington, D.C.
According to Emil Alonzo, a fourth-year ICS major, this year marks the first official extension of the annual event to a full week of activities.
‘It originally started as National Coming out Day, but because we had so many events last year we wanted to make it Coming out Week,’ Alonzo said.
Alonzo also sees greater levels of involvement from other groups and organizations marking a difference between this year’s celebration at UCI and those of the past.
‘We’ve had so many groups come and contact us saying, ‘Oh we want to help out, we want to volunteer.’ I don’t remember that many people actually wanting to help out last year. There’s so much more support coming from different people. It’s getting better,’ Alonzo said.
The expression ‘coming out’ refers to the act of deciding to be honest about ones own sexual orientation, gender expression or identity. Many cite this experience as one of the most difficult and important decisions they have ever made.
In the opinion of the UCI LGBT community, the ramifications of coming out are not limited to the personal realm. They are also critical to the community at large because the only way to end the discrimination of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is for them to have the freedom of revealing themselves to their friends, families and neighbors.
The LGBT community and its supporters believe that the harsh attitudes they have traditionally had to face could possibly be altered through a change in their visibility in the community and particularly UCI.
National Coming Out Week is one of the biggest opportunities for the LGBT community to make their presence known.
Andrea Lacy, vice-president of Gay Straight Alliance and a second-year computer engineering major said that in spite of already being out, the move to UCI can be discouraging for a LGBT student who is unaware of the resources that are available to them.
‘When I was a first-year I did not see a lot of positive things promoting anything to do with the LGBT community and it wasn’t even that I saw negative things as that I saw nothing, for the most part. When I was in high school I was out to my friends and I was out to my parents, but at that point I was not out at UCI and so it was really shocking for me. It was really upsetting because I was like ‘wow, there are three people in my dorm that I can come out to.’ So it was really difficult for me,’ Lacy said.
The National Coming Out Week also serves as the first opportunity for the LGBT community to reach out to particular students at the gate of a new academic year.
Charmane Chan, co-chair of Irvine Queers and a second-year studio art major believes that the National Coming Out Week hosted by Irvine Queers and Gay Sraight Alliance is the primary vehicle through which they are able to reach the greater campus community.
‘It’s in the beginning of the year which is great because the freshmen are just coming in and those who are new to the campus are able to see that there is an LGBT community on this campus,’ Chan said.
In addition to having a number of booths and tables set up at the Coming Out fair this Monday, the Irvine Queers and the Gay Sraight Alliance encourages people of all varieties, gay or straight who are interested in getting involved to drop by their headquarters at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource center located at the Gateway Commons building.
Weekly meetings of IQ and GSA are held every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m.