Author: Andrea Tuemmler
In honor of National Coming Out Day Oct. 11, Occidental’s Queer Student Alliance (QSA) and Center for Gender Equity (CGE) will host several events in order to open conversation about the process of coming out.
Today, the CGE is sponsoring a talk by Phil Wilson, CEO and president of the Black AIDS Institute, called “Queer Out: Understanding the Coming Out Continuum,” at 6:30 p.m. in Dumke West.
“There is a really powerful narrative, a mainstream narrative, that you come out one time,” QSA Co-President Alexis Morse (sophomore) said. “The reality is that coming out happens over and over and over, and it happens within yourself, it happens with family and friends, and then throughout your life when you move to new places and meet new people. We want to highlight how many ways it can happen.”
In his presentation today, Wilson will speak to both his experiences coming out as a black gay male in Los Angeles and his advocacy for HIV/AIDS awareness. According to Jonathan Grady, director of the Intercultural Community Center (ICC), Wilson’s talk will address intersectionality in the coming out process.
QSA is also planning to host a Coming Out Story Slam Oct. 15, which will build off the idea of the ‘coming out continuum’ to create an inclusive, interactive forum for exploring the coming out process, according to Morse. During the Story Slam, students will have the opportunity to share experiences and tell stories from their coming out process.
“The idea of the slam is to come together as a community and extend the idea of what coming out means,” Margaux Ziss (sophomore), QSA co-president, said. “This is a space for the positive stories that you hear so often just as much as it’s a space for the heartbreaking and difficult stories that are often pushed aside in favor of some homogenous narrative.”
The Story Slam will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Morrison Lounge, located next to Branca Patio. Students can participate in sharing their stories by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org before the event to express their interest.
Beyond the events this week and next, there are several ways to get involved with the LGBTQIA+ community at Occidental. The Center for Intercultural Affairs is holding frequent community dialogues this year, Grady said, and all students are welcome to come to the ICC and speak to staff members, ask questions and use their print resources. Lead With Pride’s mentorship program and Queer House are also important resources, Morse said, adding that QSA is always welcoming new members.
According to Ziss, she and Morse are focusing on building up an inclusive community on campus. They both stressed the importance of creating a safe space for all identities, drawing on the power of having perspectives from across the gender and sexuality spectrum as well as from other intersectional marginalized identities.
“We want to build a strong and supportive community,” Ziss said. “Right now the queer community at Occidental is very fractured and very hurt from past years, and we want this fresh start for QSA to bring us all together and make sure there’s a support system for both new and old students.”
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