Coming Out Week will celebrate LGBTQ students on campus
Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:03 pm in News
This week, the USC community plans to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population on campus by observing National Coming Out Week, which includes National Coming Out Day on Thursday.
National Coming Out Day was founded in 1988 by psychologist Robert Eichberg and Jean OâLeary, then the head of the National Gay Rights Advocates. Because the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights was held on Oct. 11 the preceding year, the 11th was chosen as a day to raise awareness for, and celebrate,Â LGBT communities.
The celebration was initially a single civil awareness day, but has now grown to include the entire week. In some places, such as at USC, the full month of October is celebrated as LGBT Heritage Month.
The USC LGBT Resource Center offers various events, assemblies and speakers for students to learn more about the LGBT community throughout October. The events will highlight the history of the community while providing a safe campus environment for anyone who is struggling with their sexuality.
âAt any university, itâs significant and important for people to be able to be expressive of who they are,â said Karen Tongson, associate professor of English and gender studies. âTo explicitly make a gesture toward acceptance, visibility and pride is an important thing.â
Tongson said it is not the act of coming out, but the creation of a welcoming environment, that is important during National Coming Out Week.
âNot everyone feels itâs necessary to come out or make a statement of coming out,â she said. âI think itâs important to create a nurturing environment for those that feel itâs important to come out, but also to be respectful of people who donât want to participate in labeling whatever is important to them and who they love and how they feel.â
In addition to helping people feel more acceptance, the week will draw attention to the political struggles of LGBT individuals. According to Professor Larry Gross, an expert in LGBT studies and politics, National Coming Out Week will serve to attract attention to LGBT individualsâ lack of rights.
âThe point of this event is to bring attention to an often invisible minority by identifying oneself as LGBT, often to folks who wouldnât otherwise have known this,â Gross said. âDespite enormous changes in the situation of LGBT people in this country, we remain a readily available political target and this is due in part to general lack of visibility. Also, the lack of basic civil rights suffered by gay people âŠ is due in part to pervasive invisibility. âComing outâ has long been a central tactic of LGBT liberation for this reason.â
USCâs Queer and Ally Student Assembly will decorate Trousdale Parkway and other busy walkways with colored banners to symbolize acceptance and respect for USCâs LGBT community. Jaime Westendarp, a sophomore majoring in business of cinematic arts, is supportive of the display.
âAs an ally of the LGBT community myself, itâs really refreshing to see that our school is such a supportive and accepting community,â Westendarp said. âItâs just a nice reminder that people care.â
Other students, though not personally involved in the LGBT cause, feel that having a national day to celebrate the LGBT community is important.
âDesignated days show whatâs important in a society,â said Lila Scott, a senior majoring in filmÂ production. âAlthough itâs been a somewhat tumultous time in society for gay people, itâs great that there is a day set aside for celebrating their identity.â
Coming out week events include seminars and speaker series, including Models of Pride, an all-day youth conference sponsored by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Centerâs LifeWorks Mentoring. QuASA will take an active role in the weekâs events, sponsoring the Empowerment Series, which consists of four seminars for each segment of the LGBT community.
This year, social media will play a crucial role in the promotion of respect and acceptance of LGBT individuals. The LGBT Resource Center has formed the Ally Project, which asks people to do something very simple â update their profile pictures on Facebook to demonstrate acceptance. Participants will take pictures of themselves holding a sign reading, âI am an ally,â and display it as their Facebook profile picture.
Vincent Vigil, the director of the LGBT Student Resource Center, stresses how such a simple action truly can make a difference in someoneâs struggle to accept their sexuality.
âLittle things like this can go a long way,â Vigil said. âImagine if you have 800 Facebook friends, and one of those friends is struggling with their sexuality or questioning themselves. They might feel like theyâll be able to talk to the person who put that picture up, and then they wonât feel so alone.â
Jordyn Holman and Alexis Driggs contributed to this report.