Coming Out Week
The LGBT Resource Center honored National Coming Out Week from Oct. 7-11 with a series of events to give support to the marginalized community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals on campus. The main theme of the event was “closets are for clothes…NOT Anteaters!” showing that people of different sexual orientations and gender identities can freely come out with the strong support from several people on campus.
Members of the LGBT Resource Center held a booth panel on Ring Road all week to show students and staff on campus a form of visibility called passive display. In order to give students who were struggling with their own sexualities and identities a form of support and comfort, the resource center presented the Coming Out Closet, a closet with personal stories from past students written on the fabric materials. People passing by had the opportunity to read such personal narratives and if by chance felt it to be relatable, were open to talk to the members at the booth and ask any questions on hand.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone to share their experiences and it’s a chance to be freely proud of yourself,” Bo de Lange, a fourth-year outreach intern for the LGBT Resource Center, said.
“Our main purpose this National Coming Out Week is to let people know that the LGBT Resource Center is always available and anyone’s welcome to stop by.”
For those who found it difficult to come out publicly, the LGBT Resource Center held an anonymous online chat on Oct. 7. Students were shielded from the public to freely ask questions relating to topics about the community and issues they may have faced with coming out, relationship, and other issues.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, the resource center was host to Red Shirt Day, a day where all students, regardless of any affiliations with the resource center, were open to participate by wearing a red shirt, thereby symbolizing the support they had for the LGBT community.
When asked about the main focus of the LGBT resource center, Director David Bishop explained that there were two main purposes. The first was to give a comfortable setting where people could gain courage and hope.
Bishop also utilized a different approach to let students know that it is alright not to come out if they are not comfortable.
“Some people might see our Visibility Table during the week and regardless of whether they do come out or not, at least we show them that they are not truly alone,” Bishop said. “Part of this [National Coming Out Week] is to help reduce the chance of people committing suicide because they feel isolated or unsupported.”
Bishop further explained that the purpose of the national movement was not simply for the quantities of students the resource center could gather up, but to give an overall message of support and to serve as a pillar for the students who were struggling to be themselves in society.
“Truth is, when we’re talking to people, we don’t say upfront that everyone should come out. Every individual has a different story and the main thing for them is that they should feel safe to come out.”
The resource center held its Rainbow Anteater Lunch Brunch on Wednesday, Oct. 9 to help with this goal. Students were invited to a casual setting for lunch where they could meet other students with similar troubles. This event is not limited to National Coming Out Week and happens regularly from Weeks 2 – 8.
Deejay Brown, the program coordinator for the resource center, explained that “National Coming Out Week is celebrating those that can and have the power to come out, recognizing those that came before us who gave our community the ability to come out, and supporting those who cannot yet.”
He went into detail on how far the community has been able to advance due to the support felt. “We use the word ‘queer’ a lot in our events. The original word was used in a derogative and negative way, but now there are many definitions on ‘queer.’ We have now taken back that derogative feeling of hate to say instead that we identify with the word in a positive way and are empowered by choosing a word what was originally against us.”
Kitty Dorchester, a graphics and technology intern at the resource center stated, “It’s interesting to see how coming out stories touch people’s hearts the most and empower them to move forward.”
The National Coming Out Week is not only for the LGBT community, but is also an opportunity for allies on campus to show support.
“The bigger picture is that 90 percent of the population have a choice to make,” Bishop said. “I think everyone on this campus has the means to be an ally. Just saying that people support the LGBT community is not enough for permanent change. I think that UCI has done a good job on showing support but there is still a lot that can be done in this national movement.”