The Queer Resource Center of Southern Oregon University celebrated “National Coming Out Day” Thursday, using a literal door set up in the Stevenson Union courtyard to represent the figurative “closet door” out of which the LGBTQ community say they have walked.
“Silence is dangerous. It leads to emotional and mental trauma,” said Donovan Weber, a staff member of the QRC and student who helped table the event.
Weber described National Coming Out Day as community-building platform for people to find inspiration from other people’s personal story.
In addition to selling T-shirts and hats with messages and slogans supportive of gay pride, the QRC encouraged students to write personal messages on the door prop set up by their table. These ranged from words of encouragement to the LGBTQ community or students’ own stories of “coming out.”
“I think it’s really important to create a safe space in which people can feel comfortable with who they are, not feel the stigma of the belief that it’s just a phase, because it’s not,” said sophomore Caila McCarthy, a studio arts major. Her message to the gay community was “Always remember someone is there for you in your hard times,” a variation on a common theme plastered on the door.
Some students involved in the Coming Out event expressed an interest in making sure people understood that the QRC was involved in supporting much more than just the gay and lesbian community. “It’s about coming out as your true self,” said Anders Templeton, a senior majoring in theatre arts and education who identifies as a transgendered individual.
“For me, coming out is when my life started. I was a boy trapped in a girl’s body,” he said. Templeton founded the “TransTalk” program on campus, a discussion group designed to create solidarity and community for transgendered students.
Not everyone understands the complex differences between gay and lesbian orientation and being transgendered or gender-ambiguous, said Weber, who does not identify as either masculine or feminine.
“A common misunderstanding is that if you’re trans, you’re automatically the other gender,” Weber said. Weber went on to clarify that sex and gender are not the same thing, that one does not determine the other.
The QRC is marching in the annual Pride Parade in downtown Ashland on Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. Students interested in joining the parade are invited to meet at 10:15 a.m. near Siskiyou and Union Street. “Pride Booths” will be set up in the downtown Plaza in Lithia Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will include music, festivities and an “SOU Pride Potluck” in the park.