The LGBT Resource Center and the Queer and Ally Student Assembly set a new record by gathering 1,155 signatures for the 2012 OUTlist, a collection of names who support the LGBT community. The list was published Thursday, which is also National Coming Out Day.
Students and members of the university community signed the OUTlist either in person or online, according to Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Resource Center. Vigil cites the introduction of the online component several years ago as one of the factors that assisted the list in its burgeoning popularity.
“Support for the list and for the LGBT community has been increasing every year, especially after the opportunity to sign the OUTlist online arose,” Vigil said.
The OUTlist dates back to 1990, when it was founded by an organization known as “University United” to combat homophobia. In its first year, 30 people added their signatures to the list. Recently, however, there has been a substantial increase in signatures.
“Last year was the first year we had a little over 1,000 signatures, and this year we have topped that number,” said Mellissa Linton, executive director of the Queer and Ally Student Assembly. “Each year the OUTlist appears to be growing more, and I hope this means more awareness of our community will be present because of our increasing visibility on campus.”
The substantial increase in signatures in 2012 marks the list’s growing popularity among students and greater acceptance given to members and allies of the LGBTQ community on campus, organizers said.
Tyler Coble, a sophomore majoring in biological sciences, feels that the OUTlist reflects positive changes in the USC community.
“USC has plenty of groups that make it OK to come out. So many people on campus are so accepting, it just creates a positive environment for everyone,” she said.
Leaders like Linton and Vigil noted that support for the OUTlist has changed over the years. Though many students now gather to compose the list, the project was not always as widely received.
“At first, until about 2005, some allies were fearful that they would be perceived as LGBT if they signed the list,” Vigil said.
As a result, the Resource Center and QuASA have taken measures to ensure that allies and LGBTQ students both feel comfortable showing their support via the list.
“We promote allies in our [public relations], and we make sure to show that allies are included,” Vigil said.
Other changes to the list occurred in 2009 when the OUTlist altered its aim to declare support for equal rights and same sex marriage. With the intention of advocating a repeal of Proposition 8, an initiative that passed in the 2008 election banning same-sex marriage, the list served as a Marriage Equality Declaration, according to the LGBTQ Resource Center’s website.
The unprecedented amount of support the 2012 OUTlist received marks an important milestone in LGBTQ progress on campus.
“The OUTlist is significant because it is a matter of visibility for LGBTQ identified students, faculty, staff, alumni and allies,” Linton said. “Coming Out Month is a month for my community to celebrate our identities, so having the OUTlist is exciting because so many people will see the published list.”
Still, campus LGBTQ leaders would like to see the list and other campus events evolve. Ideas for growing LGBT activities and USC’s National Coming Out Day events include incorporating an element of LGBTQ civil rights history into programs.
“We have a rich history of civil rights and we’d like to educate young people about the movement to demonstrate that it wasn’t always easy and still isn’t easy for LGBT individuals today,” Vigil said.
Linton also said there is still a lot of work to be done to encourage students to be more accepting.
“USC is by no means completely up to par with creating a safe space for LGBTQ students, but it’s on its way, and I hope with a combination of visibility and education, we can collectively move to make USC a good environment for all of us,” Linton said.
Caitlin Wilhelm, a sophomore majoring in linguistics and Middle Eastern studies, is especially impressed with the increased attention given to the official Coming Out Day because of the OUTlist.
“I think it’s a cool experience to have such an open community at USC,” she said. “It’s great to know that people actually know about and support Coming Out Day as a legitimate event on campus.”