The College of Liberal Arts Celebrates National Coming Out Week
By: Nick Santangelo
National Coming Out Week (NCOW) is here, and the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) is supporting LGBTQ students with a mix of student and college-run events:
• Queer Connect | Monday, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. | Student Center, 200B
• International Coffee | Tuesday, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. | Student Center, Underground
• Community Forum | Tuesday, 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. | Student Center, Underground
• NCOW Festival | Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. | 13th St. Between Cecil B. Moore and Montgomery Ave.
• Advocacy: Letter Writing and Social Media | 3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m. | Anderson Hall, 821
• Clothesline Project | Thursday, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Bell Tower
• Come Out, Speak Out | Thursday, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. | Student Center Underground
• Drag Show | Friday, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. | Temple Performing Arts Center
• Queer Bingo | Friday, 9 p.m. – 12 a.m. | Student Center, 200
NCOW started as a single day back in 1988 before expanding out to an entire week. The idea is for LGBTQ individuals to, as Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program Director Heath Fogg Davis puts it, “feel like they can express themselves and bring their entire selves to work or campus or wherever.”
Dr. Davis points out that there’s been a lot of social science research showing that when people know someone who’s LGBTQ, they’re more likely to support civil rights for that community. As such, NCOW events at CLA this week aren’t geared only towards LGBTQ people. Yes, the events are to support those individuals, but they’re also meant to help non-LGBTQ people become allies by helping them understand the struggles their LGBTQ classmates face in coming out.
“There are concerns about how classmates and professors and others will respond and whether or not they can be their full selves,” explains Dr. Davis. “And I think that that's just an issue whether we're on campus or in a work environment. And also there are still issues around parental acceptance. Some people have supportive families and that's wonderful. Others don't.”
The struggles can differ from student to student depending on, among other factors, how supportive their friends and family members are. Political science major and President of Temple University’s Queer People of Color Dimo Ortiz says it’s a different curve for everyone and echoes Dr. Davis’ thoughts about how much of an effect family acceptance (or lack thereof) can have on students coming out.
“There’s a lot of fear stemming from older generations when it comes to parents and family members because everything you learn about societies also comes from within the home,” says Ortiz. “It’s not only just media and news—it definitely comes from your family members, so you want to ensure safety. And college is a time to not only find yourself but also find your people and whatever you're interested in and really passionate about and honing in on those skills.”
English major and Queer People of Color Secretary Layah Taylor agrees that it’s important for college students to break away from the strict concepts of home life and become their own independent person. She also adds that coming out isn’t necessarily a singular event.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about coming out,” says Taylor. “You don't just come out once and then everyone is just kind of like, ‘Oh, this is what you are.’ I agree with [Ortiz]. It is very much so a learning curve. Some people come out multiple, multiple times as different things. So, I think that's also scary to some people, too, just because sexuality is ever-changing, and it's not just this black and white thing.”
That’s why it’s so important for the campus to have spaces like those being made available during the NCOW events and to have others available year-round, such as those tied to CLA’s LGBT minor. Dr. Davis hopes students can form bonds with each other there to help them to come out not just now, but throughout their lifetimes.
“The friends you make in college are going to probably stay with you for the rest of your lives in some kind of way. So, that can be really important just in terms of friendship, but also in terms of professional support as you get out there after Temple.”