AU Comes Out
October is a proud month.
As LGBT History Month, October hosts a number of events and programs at AU that seek to empower students and the identities they express. Through participating in the DC AIDS Walk to sponsoring film screenings and a drag show, the university’s GLBTA Resource Center brings gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender topics to the forefront of the campus conversation.
Coming out stands apart as an issue that receives its own day to celebrate, affirm, and remember those who have and those who still yearn to express their identities.
For Matt Bruno, program coordinator of the GLBTA Resource Center at AU, October 11th and the month around it offer opportunities to show the diversity and depth of the GLBT community on campus.
“It’s important to talk about the expansiveness and broadness of the community,” Bruno explains. “The GLBT community gets stereotyped as this or that, and this month helps to debunk some of those stereotypes.”
Open Door Policy
To those ends, the student group AU Queers and Allies held Coming Out on the Quad, an event where anyone could literally and figuratively come out of the closet – an actual door set in the middle of campus. Attendees also signed a “Why We Fight” blanket, sharing words like “I fight for love” on their support of the LGBT community.
Rachel Fogel, deputy director and program director for Queers and Allies, has helped with event for the past two years. She’s seen the reaction from students as more than positive.
“Giving people the opportunity to physically come out of the closet, it’s symbolic and freeing,” she explains. “There’s a lot of support for it. There are these people cheering you on and all these people getting together in support of who you are. That’s a really great thing to have.”
Support runs thick through AU, one of twenty universities in the United States to receive a five-star rating from the Campus Equality Index. The rating results from the AU community’s support and affirmation as shown in its GLBT-related policies, student groups, housing options, resource center, and training programs for staff and faculty.
Confidence & Courage
To close the day, the GLBTA Resource Center held the Coming Out Monologues. The event, first started at the University of California, Riverside in 2007, allows students to share their own experiences about coming out while also reading anonymous testimonies from friends and students at other universities.
Jill Altman, president of AU Queers and Allies, was encouraged by what she saw in the packed event as students both hesitantly and proudly conveyed their personal experiences.
“There were certain people who weren’t going to share their story and did because they got courage from other people telling their stories,” she says. “That’s the point of the monologues – to give someone courage.”
With similar aims, the university and its GLBTA Resource Center strive to empower and affirm everyone on campus, regardless of identity or background. Through the various events and programs each year, Altman sees the goal as well-pursued far beyond the month of October.
“It’s an open community where you are not judged,” she explains. “I actually know people who are out at AU but not at home. It shows that there is acceptance at AU and a level of confidence. That’s really huge.”