Special guest appearances and a display of enthusiasm and rainbows marked this year’s fourth annual Queer Visibility Kiss-In and rally. The event, held on the Diag Friday afternoon, was designed to promote the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on campus and was the closing event of Queer Visibility Week.
Surrounded by more than 100 students and community members, several speakers took the podium to inform the ralliers about the LGBT community. Many spoke of the seeming invisibility of LGBT students on campus. “By simply holding a woman’s hand on this campus, I become invisible,” Rackham student Julie Konik said. “We need to show the diversity in our queer community,” she added.
Speakers emphasized the necessity and force of an LGBT presence on campus. “You cannot turn back. You can’t pretend we don’t exist. We are central to campus,” Konik said. “You may try to keep us in the closet, try to push us away … but we will keep coming back.”
Michigan Student Assembly LGBT Co-Chair Stacy Agosto, an event organizer, said one of the main purposes of the rally was to educate the University population. “Events like this try to push boundaries,” Agosto, an RC junior, said.
LSA sophomore and speaker Eryk Glenn said he appreciated the support for the LGBT community showed by those attending the rally. “I came to this event in years past and didn’t feel the support,” Glenn said.
In comparing the University to other communities, state Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) said he thinks the visibility on campus is greater than in other communities. “It wasn’t like this when I was here as a student,” Kolb, a University alum, said. “I wouldn’t be here today without your support.”
Kolb added he hopes this event will foster a higher comfort level between the University at large and the LGBT community. “I’m not the only queer in the representatives. It’s up to us to make sure that they have a space someday,” he said.
Glenn congratulated rally members for attending. “A lot of time we forget it’s not easy to be out,” Glenn added, “I want to congratulate us for being ourselves.”
The rally concluded with a kiss-in, where all attendees were invited to pucker up.
Most students who attended said they found the rally and kiss-in inspiring. LSA senior Erika Erlandson said she was thankful that support for the community has grown. “It’s important to have visibility. It’s important for everyone to be here,” Erlandson said.
But not all University community members supported the visibility aspect of the rally. LSA junior Jae Lee said although he didn’t mind the rally, he was in favor of a less public display. “(They should) do it on their own time,” Lee said.
Event organizers, LGBT Commission Co-Chairs Agosto and Jeff Souva, said they were pleased with the event’s turnout. “People thought it was very welcoming,” Souva, an LSA sophomore, said. Agosto said she particularly appreciated the speakers. “The speakers had a lot of inspiring and empowering things to say.”
When asked about the attendance of non-LGBT students who attended the rally, Souva said he thinks allied support could always improve. “I think the ally turnout was reasonable,” he said. “Next year, I’d like to reach out to the Greek system and get more faculty and staff involved.