This week is Coming Out Week. It is a time for everyone, whether they are a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT) or not, to discuss the different issues surrounding the gay community.
This week is sponsored every year by the Drake Rainbow Union (RU) to raise awareness about certain issues going on in the gay community, as well as giving students the opportunity to learn more about the community.
“For me, National Coming Out Week is an important reminder to discuss issues relating to sexuality and identity in the classroom,” said Assistant Professor Joan Faber McAlister, who has a doctorate in rhetorical studies.
“It is a symbol of larger LGBTQ community and politics, and a vehicle for social change,” she said.
Every year RU puts up doors throughout Helmick Commons. Each door is a different color of the rainbow and symbolizes the notion of coming out.
In the year 2001, the doors were vandalized in many ways, such as having the word “fag” spray painted on one of them.
“These same doors are displayed to remind everyone that there is no place, including Drake University, that is completely safe for LGBT members or allies,” explained RU president La’Cee Groetken.
Along with the doors, RU holds events for students, staff and faculty to get involved. There is a faculty round table, which is an open table discussion about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
CAMPUSPEAK speaker Cindy Pierce will be discussing sex and choosing a partner for gay and straight people, and there will also be a candlelight vigil to tell coming out stories or to hear what students and staff have gone through as members of the LGBT community.
A drag show will be put on to help raise money for charities, and students are invited to tie-dye and watch a movie. The week ends with National Coming Out Day.
National Coming Out Day falls on Oct. 11 of every year. It is an internationally observed civil awareness day for LGBT awareness and issues.
“This week gives the opportunity for students to enjoy our events while some also use it as a chance to come out to their self, families and friends,” Groetken said about the activities this week and its meaning.
Many students, staff and faculty use this week as a time to tell their closest friends and family that they are a member of the LGBT community.
“Being closeted is painful,” McAlister said. “I have been coming out since I was in college. It is a scary thing to do—every time. But I think it is very important work to do. Many at Drake are committed to creating an open and safe environment for everyone; protecting LGBT people is an important part of that.”