GSA seeks allies

By on October 16, 2018

Members and allies of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community came together on Thursday, Oct. 11 to celebrate coming out and to raise awareness for LGBTQ+ civil rights issues in honor of this year’s National Coming Out Day.

Quinnipiac’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) hosted several events throughout the week, fostering an environment where students can live openly and stressed the importance of being an ally to LGBTQ+ individuals.

“The LGBTQ+ community has made tremendous progress in recent years, but I think that we still struggle with acceptance in society,” senior nursing major and GSA President Meaghan Rocha said. “The message of ‘coming out’ as an ally is extremely important in order to validate and recognize the experiences of LGBTQ+ students on campus…. The most important thing that students can do to be an ally is to make an effort to understand the LGBTQ+ community and to not be afraid to ask questions when it is appropriate.”

National Coming Out Day has become a significant holiday for members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community, whether they have come out or not.

Graphic by Dev Sovi
The first National Coming Out Day was celebrated thirty years ago, on the one-year anniversary of the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Prompted by the AIDS pandemic and unfair legislation against the LGBTQ+ community, an estimated half a million people marched with the goal of diminishing discrimination, promoting individual freedom and advocating for the legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships. The movement resulted in the creation of a number of LGBTQ+ organizations and protests and left a lasting impact on the unity of the LGBTQ+ community.

Today, the message behind the march is as relevant as ever. According to a study by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), 20 percent of millennials identify as LGBTQ+. However, only 26 percent of LGBTQ+ youth report being able to fully be themselves at school respectively, as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) noted in its 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report. Furthermore, HRC researchers found that “77 percent of LGBTQ teenagers surveyed reported feeling depressed or down” and “LGBTQ youth of color and transgender teenagers experience unique challenges and elevated stress.”

“Coming out can be one of the most courageous acts an LGBTQ person makes, and that courage is inextricably tied to our continued progress toward full equality,” HRC President Chad Griffin said.

Signs of such progress have been made apparent by several high profile individuals this year. From singer Janelle Monáe to entertainer Brendon Urie, a multitude of celebrities revealed their sexualities in 2018 and voiced their support for the LGBTQ+ community. Regarding the journey of coming out, playwright and musician Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted on Thursday, Oct. 11, “At your pace, on your terms. Your happiness and safety are paramount. Sending endless love your way.”

There is also hope for equality and acceptance outside of the realm of entertainment. As reported by The LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, more than 430 openly LGBTQ+ people ran for office at every level of government this election cycle, and 244 will be listed on the general election ballots this November.

“Visibility matters, and research shows that when people know someone who is LGBTQ+, they are far more likely to support full equality under the law,” Griffin said. “Coming out and sharing our stories is essential to advancing LGBTQ+ equality and fighting back against attempts to turn back the clock on our progress.”

There are several resources available to individuals wrestling with the decision of coming out, and to those experiencing emotional turmoil stemming from their sexuality. The Trevor Project, for example, offers a support center, educational programs, and a lifeline at 1-866-488-7386.

In short, the LGBTQ+ community has made significant progress in breaking down barriers and stereotypes since National Coming Out Day was first established. Through continued support from Quinnipiac and the country at large, the elimination of discrimination, heteronormativity and misunderstanding may be one step closer.

“My favorite part about being gay and being a part of this community is being surrounded by individuals who have loved and been open and honest about who they were when the rest of the world told them not to,” Rocha said. “A group of individuals that can exist and love in the face of that kind of adversity is beautiful and empowering to be a part of.” 

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