The Queer Resource Center, FAMILY, and other queer and allied groups on campus recognized and celebrated National Coming Out Day (NCOD). Although the official date is Oct. 11, NCOD was celebrated with a week of programming. As Lowell Reade (HMC ’12) said, “Coming out is one of the most powerful ways to make change… by personally being exposed to queer people, [people] have a closer connection to the queer rights movement.” The diverse events reflected the myriad ways to be out.
On Oct. 6, Sister Spit, a group of seven radical queer feminist artists, performed in Balch Auditorium. The evening began with Sara Seinberg introducing Sister Spit with her brilliant slide show of photographs from their tour. Her photos depicted things she saw—they weren’t fabricated or staged. Sister Spit’s acts were similarly raw and honestly queer.
Queer and allied students alike laughed to Beth Lisick’s failed attempt at bisexuality, Ariel Shrag’s story of a high school lesbian hoping to lose her “real” virginity to a boy and Rhiannon Argo’s story of an aspiring stripper’s encounter with a Brazilian wax job. An excited round of applause followed Ben McCoy’s lip-syncing to a recording of her powerful and poignant condemnation of typical trans and drag politics and stereotypes. Michelle Tea, the host of the evening, shared an article commenting on the Gossip’s performance at a Fendi event during fashion week in Paris, an ironic and paradoxical testament to queer mainstream acceptance.
The Sister Spit performance impacted the 5C community beyond the walls of Balch. Kyria Traber’s poem on body hair and the expectation on women to mutilate and pluck away at their bodies inspired the following week’s MESA (Middle Eastern and South Asian)/ FAMILY talk on the politics of hair.
National Coming Out Day events were designed to encourage 5C students and the public to come “out” as their true selves. Adriana di Bartolo, Coordinator of the QRC, led student and faculty/staff ally trainings that recognized the prejudice and rejection allies face when they come out. The coming out panel in Mudd’s dining hall featured the mother of a gay son, who shared her touching experience as a supportive ally to her son. Amina Simmons (PO ’12), a lesbian Christian, shared how her identities are complementary but are deemed mutually exclusive by society. She said, “It seems like I can’t win…at home they don’t accept my sexuality and here they don’t accept my belief, the two most essential characteristics of who I am.”
National Coming Out Day festivities, culminating in the bright pink painting of Walker Wall, attempted to at least recognize the boundaries we all place, and make the QRC, queer and allied groups more inclusive. Communities set limitations, whether intentionally or not.
That exclusion harms those who do not fit within the policed boundaries. Di Bartolo said that the purpose of NCOD is to work “toward a campus climate in which LGBTQ folks and our allies can come out in a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment…We are creating visibility around an invisible and often forgotten student population.” By celebrating and recognizing queers of faith, allies, gender nonconformists and all other manifestations of queer, the 5Cs and the community can learn to be not just tolerant, but accepting of non-normative ways of being.