On Oct. 11, 1987, a half-million people marched in Washington
for gay and lesbian rights, attracting national media attention and
launching celebratory events in 18 states. Seventeen years later,
the march has spurred National Coming Out Week events on college
campuses across the United States.

The week of celebration for and awareness of lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender students started yesterday and will
continue throughout the week with luncheons, movies, discussion
sessions, games and a rally on Friday.

“National Coming Out Week brings visibility to lesbian,
gay, bisexual, transgender and queer issues and gives students an
opportunity to celebrate their LGBTQ identities within a culture
that is not fully supportive of LGBTQ folks,” said Kelly
Garrett, assistant director at the Office of Lesbian Gay Bisexual
and Transgender Affairs.

The “week” is designed to help gay students tell
their families, friends and communities of their sexual
orientation.

LSA senior Christian Knudson said while he did not use the week
as a venue for coming out, he supported National Coming Out Week.
“I think that anything to give comfort or to provide a source
of support for gays and lesbians that are considering coming out is
a great idea,” Knudson said.

Not all students may come out during the week, but Garrett
believes it can help those who do.

“If students come to our rally and see how many people are
supportive, including heterosexual allies, they may feel empowered
to come out to themselves or others,” Garrett said.
“Also, sometimes a student may be ‘out’ to
themselves, and they’re ready to come out to others, but they
don’t know how to do it.”

The event features different venues for students to meet other
gay students and staff, who can aid those who are ready to come
out. “Support is the key, and we strive to provide
support,” Garrett said.

Even the Friday rally on the Diag will have a closet door
through which people can “come out.”

For all the fun in the atmosphere, there remains a feeling of
anxiety for some students.

“It’s an especially trying time for minorities in
this country,” said Knudson. “In light of the anti-gay
proposals circulating in many states — some of which have
already been approved — there’s definitely a great
sense of what the future holds for us.”

In November, voters will be deciding whether to add an amendment
to the state constitution which would ban same-sex marriage.

To commemorate the past, some students will gather on the Diag
tomorrow wearing black for an hour long moment of silence from noon
to 1 p.m.

“(It will) acknowledge students who have been silenced by
homophobia and don’t feel that they can come out,”
Garrett said. “Also, it commemorates those who have been
silenced permanently through brutal attacks that have resulted in
death, just for being LGBTQ.”

Knudson said gay students should remain optimistic.

“We shouldn’t be militant about it or angry, or we
shouldn’t be vindictive,” said Knudson. “We
should be positive and show people that we support each other and
we look to people for support.”

Negative feedback has been limited according to Garrett.

“We occasionally do get a negative e-mail or two, but most
people on campus seem to be supportive. However, students do still
face discrimination and hate daily on campus in the form of
graffiti, anti-LGBTQ slurs and homophobic jokes. Through awareness
events we hope to help to improve the climate on campus for LGBTQ
students, staff and faculty,” Garrett said.

LSA senior Dan Krawiec, a heterosexual student, only knew about
Coming Out Week when he saw fliers on campus but said, “I
don’t have any problem with it. Good for people who celebrate
their own identity.”

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