Following the highly publicized suicides of at least six gay teenagers in September, the brutal torture of three gay men in the Bronx and the struggle over the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, October’s designation as Coming Out month seems all the more poignant this year for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Coming Out month serves not only as a time to draw attention to hate crimes against LGBT members but as a time to reflect upon how far our society has come in terms of acceptance.
In the wake of the recent tragedies, an outpouring of support has flooded in from across the nation, including the It Gets Better Project, a website with videos from people reaching out to LGBT teenagers telling them that things “really do get better.”
At USC, hundreds of students, faculty, staff and members of campus organizations have already signed the OUTlist, a “declaration of support for the LGBT and Ally Community.” Oct. 18 marked the beginning of Ally Week, filled with events to show how allies can become involved in the movement toward equality.
We should applaud the strength of both the on-campus LGBT community and USC for its continued support of tolerance and acceptance.
USC is a very LGBT-friendly campus, even when compared to more “liberal” universities; The Advocate College Guide to LGBT Students consistently ranks USC among the “Best of the Best: Top 20 Campuses” colleges for LGBT students. The Campus Climate Index also gives USC the highest-possible rating for diversity and open-mindedness.
The Rainbow Floor in Century Apartments offers an opportunity for LGBT students and their allies to live in an educational and supportive environment.
USC hosts the Faculty and Staff Allies Program, winner of the 2006 Outstanding Program Award from the USC Division of Student Affairs, to educate faculty and staff on LGBT concerns and history.
USC’s highly praised LGBT Resource Center and affiliated organizations, such as the Queer and Ally Student Association and the Lambda LGBT Alumni Association, are holding a series of events (including LGBT T-shirt sales) in celebration of Coming Out month.
October was selected as Coming Out month to commemorate the first march on Washington by a LGBT rally in 1979. National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 had already attracted public attention, so the recognition was extended to cover the entire month.
As the name suggests, Coming Out month provides a chance for LGBT students to “come out of the closet” and reveal their orientation to those close to them, though, of course, the choice of when or how to come out rests with each individual.
In fact, Coming Out month serves more as an encouragement for LGBT students to accept who they are and to raise awareness for LGBT issues rather than a definitive coming out time period.
For allies of the LGBT community, it’s often still difficult to know what to do or how to help without feeling intrusive.
The individuals committing violent hate crimes might be on the fringe of more extremist anti-gay movements, but just because someone isn’t actively discriminating doesn’t mean they aren’t being judgemental or unsupportive.
As an ally, the best way one might counter a disgusted look or condescending gossip is to still offer continual, whole-hearted support.
Whether or not we personally agree with LGBT issues, there is never an excuse for the bigotry and physical and psychological abuse faced by members of the LGBT community.
We should be proud of USC for fostering an environment of support and respect.
Regardless of sexual orientation, religious beliefs or personal opinions of the LGBT community, Coming Out month reminds us of our shared values.
We all stand for the ideals of tolerance and acceptance of differences — in this sense, we are all allies.
To the LGBT community: Fight on!
Rebecca Gao is a freshman majoring in global health.