Crowd gathers for annual Coming Out Day rally
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 08:10
Members of the Tufts community yesterday filled Hotung Cafe in the Mayer Campus Center for the 24th annual National Coming Out Day.
Organized by the Tufts Queer Straight Alliance (QSA), the rally allowed students, faculty and staff to share their stories and discuss what it means to identify as a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community or as an ally.
Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Students John Barker discussed the importance of creating a safe educational environment for all students. Tufts launched the Office of Intercultural and Social Identities Programs (ISIP) last semester as a way to engage the Tufts community in dialogues about diversity.
“A National Coming Out Day is not only symbolic, but it is [also] important for the history and direction of our country and our university,” Barker said.
Director of the LGBT Center Tom Bourdon noted that it is important for all members of the gay community to celebrate their identities.
“Today I hope you remember to let people know how you feel, to have a good time, to not let people hold you down and to have no regret for being who you are,” Bourdon said.
All 50 states did not observe the holiday until 1990, according to group facilitator of QSA Sophia Laster. Tufts had its first Coming Out Day rally in 1991, which 18 students attended, she added.
“As political and social awareness of LGBT issues on campus has grown, so has the span of this event,” Laster, a junior, said.
Laster stressed the need for a change in the national attitude toward the LGBT community.
“Why do our sexualities, the people we love, the people we sleep with, mean so much to others in this country?” Laster asked. “Why do those in power favor prejudice and homophobia over human rights?”
David Arond, assistant professor of public health and family medicine at the School of Medicine and faculty advisor to the Buddhist Sangha at Tufts, emphasized the importance of realizing that all human beings are connected, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.
“One of the fundamental aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness is that we ‘inter-are,’” he said. “We’re all connected ... It’s all about love.”
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Timothy Atherton said that coming out helps connect people in the LGBT community.
“By all of us being out, we can create a community which gives all of us strength and the ability to be ourselves,” Atherton said.
Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, the executive director of Tufts Hillel, said that religious institutions should promote equality.
“Religion should bring more unity and more love into the world,” he said.
Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) Sgt. Christopher McGee explained that TUPD provides support for all students, including members of the LGBT community.
TUPD officers undergo diversity training every year, McGee said, adding that this year the officers will receive additional training from Bourdon.
“The campus police is a very strong ally to the community,” Bourdon said.
Carly Knitzer, a freshman, said that her personal experiences have taught her that no one needs to label their sexual identity.
“I don’t need a label anymore,” she said. “This day is supposed to celebrate being you and coming out as whatever you want.”
Tufts Community Union (TCU) Judiciary Chair Adam Sax, a senior, said that it was moving to hear everyone’s individual stories.
“We don’t all have the same experience, and that’s what makes this community diverse and wonderful,” he said.
TCU Senator Logan Cotton, a senior, explained the significance of overcoming frustration and working towards positive change.
“Our goal, as a community, is to bring people off the sidewalk and into the march,” he said. “There is progress happening all around you, and your contribution matters.”