More than 100 people gathered at the Michigan Union yesterday to rally for National Coming Out Day, a day that has been recognized nationally since 1988. The rally was part of a weeklong set of events on campus sponsored by the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs.
After the gathering moved from the Diag to the Union because of rain, a number of people spoke about coming out, incorporating such themes as societal acceptance, personal comfort and safe sex.
“To me it”s a day when people should feel comfortable to be able to be themselves,” LSA senior Jennifer Gallinat said.
One of the goals of these events is to create a supportive and comfortable environment for people, Gallinat said. Several speeches at the rally focused on the importance of such support.
“Last year I would not have been at this rally,” said LSA sophomore Bonnie Aumann as she spoke to the group about the support she”s received in the year since she”s been at the University.
“I”m so glad we have a day that celebrates that important life step,” said Jim Etzkorn, staff psychologist with Counseling and Psychological Services.
While most sentiments at the rally were celebratory and supportive, there was also an underlying awareness of the terrorist attacks that occurred exactly one month ago yesterday.
After questioning what there is to celebrate on a day that marks the month anniversary of a national crisis, Beth Harrison-Prado, a Social Work and social science doctoral student, stressed the importance of fighting against hate in a situation like this.
“What we”re doing today is absolutely essential. It is making headway toward stopping the hate,” Harrison-Prado said.
Jim Toy, founder of the University”s LGBTA office, the oldest at any college in the country, spoke about current efforts advocating two courses of action the University must take.
The LGBTA is calling for the Board of Regents to expand its non-discriminatory policies, which currently include sexual orientation, to also include gender identity.
They are also demanding that the University cut off funding to the United Way, Toy said. The United Way helps fund the Boy Scouts, an organization that discriminates on the basis of religious belief and sexual orientation.
“We want the University to give money, but not to people that teach intolerance,” said LSA senior William Pierce Beckham.
“I”m more confident that the University and administration may do something positive about their relationship with the United Way,” Toy said after meeting with President Bollinger yesterday morning.
National Coming Out Day was also celebrated on other campuses. The Alliance of Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender and Straight Students at Michigan State University scheduled a week of events as well, including a number of speakers and a demonstration outside Michigan State”s administration building calling for more recognition.