Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” blared across the Diag yesterday as LGBT students and supporters celebrated their sexuality.
As part of National Coming Out Day, about 75 people gathered on the Diag yesterday afternoon to show their solidarity with the University’s LGBT community.
The speakers at the rally, which was sponsored by the Michigan Student Assembly’s LGBT Issues Commission, included MSA President DeAndree Watson, Law Prof. Bruce Frier and Spectrum Center Coordinator Ariana Bostian-Kentes. They discussed recent legislative measures, such as the repeal of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, that affect the LGBT community, as well as topics like the development of adolescent identities among LGBT youth.
In his speech, Watson lauded the University community for its understanding and acceptance of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. He added that though society does not completely accept different sexual identities, everyone should be proud of their identity.
“The answer to this question about what coming out means is that if we lived in a truly tolerant society, there would be no need to come out,” Watson said. “There is no need to feel ashamed of the person you are, because regardless of what our identity entails, that is what makes us a source of pride, not a reason to be ashamed.”
Since 1988, the LGBT community has observed National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. Its purpose is “to promote equality, truth, and safety around the issue of being open about one’s sexuality, as well as respect for each other’s identities,” the Spectrum Center’s website states.
Watson said America is a country that inherently embraces diversity on multiple levels, such as race, religion, culture and gender. Sexual orientation should be no exception to that standard, he said.
“We should be judged not by the color of our skin, the content of our income, our religion, or by our sexuality,” Watson said. “That is the America I believe in, and the one I know we all want.”
Frier spoke of various state policies regarding gay marriage and the consequences of violating marriage laws.
Using Wisconsin as an example, Frier noted that if a couple were to travel across the Mississippi River to Iowa, a state where it is legal for same-sex couples to wed, and return to Wisconsin following the wedding, the couple would be subject to punishment under state law. The couple could be charged nine months imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines, he said.
In an interview before the event, LSA junior Ethan Hahn, chair of MSA’s LGBT Issues Commission, said he became active in the commission because in Iowa, where he’s from, there are many civil restrictions.
Among the commission’s initiatives is a queer studies campaign — a push to develop queer studies as an academic department at the University. Hahn said this would allow students to major in queer studies and “explore themselves and their communities in a more open light, in the academic community.”
Bostian-Kentes said in her speech yesterday that the sunny weather was an homage to the warm feeling National Coming Out Day should bring. She said this feeling of acceptance is the type of camaraderie she hopes the Spectrum Center provides to the many students who use its services.
Bostian-Kentes’s partner, Nicole, is currently serving on active duty in the military in Afghanistan. Referring to the recent repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Bostian-Kentes said educating the campus community about the repercussions of the policy was one of her main goals and initiatives.
“Now I can be part of family readiness groups before she is deployed overseas, attend homecoming events and actually express to people and the world that I am very much in love with Nicole,” Bostian-Kentes said.