On October 11, 1987, half a million people marched in Washington, D.C. to support gay rights and denounce discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.
The next year, activists Rob Eichberg and Jean O’Leary came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out, which would be held on the anniversary of the march. October 11, 1988 was therefore the first official National Coming Out Day, and today, it is recognized by all fifty states and many other countries.
This year, to celebrate the 24th annual National Coming Out Day, Carleton students and faculty decided to celebrate with a two-week series of events intended to celebrate the process of coming out, and to raise awareness of the issues faced by the LGTBQ community.
Collectively called National Coming Out Week, the events kicked off with the Coming Out Party, held on Monday, October 8, in the Goodhue Superlounge.
The topic of “coming out” was not limited to sexuality, but rather to any secret that a student wanted to “come out” about to the Carleton community.
“What I love about the Coming Out Party each year, and what I think is one of the most important parts, is the community,” said Lauren Chow ’14, a staff member at Carleton’s Gender and Sexuality Center (GCS) who worked to coordinate the event.
“It’s just so cool to see so many people come together and celebrate sharing some really important parts of our identities with each other.”
The main event was the reading of student submissions on the theme of “coming out.” The party also featured emcees Connor Lane ’13 and Matt Weinstein ’14, as well as performances by two acapella groups, decorations, and even a table of make-your-own rainbow cupcakes. “We like to make it a festive, fun, celebratory atmosphere, so we had a lot of balloons and streamers and rainbow[s],” said Chow.
“Everyone there was obviously incredibly accepting,” said Jake Kramer ’15, who performed with acapella group Intertwining Melodies at the event. “It’s important for students to know that everyone here at Carleton is open-minded and receptive [to] individual differences, no matter what. Performing was an honor and really helped to solidify a message of acceptance across different campus groups.”
Chow also praised the diversity of students who attended. “There’s always a wide range of people, from those who have never come to a GSC event to those who basically live at the GSC, and everyone has their own unique story. For that night, we get to be together as a community,” she said.
“For a lot of students, it’s really validating to hear others’ stories that speak to your own experience, as well as sharing your own with a room of supportive and understanding people.”
The following Thursday was National Coming Out Day, celebrated with a GSC-hosted lunch in the Great Hall. Attending students got to hear faculty and staff members speak about coming out, and also enjoyed sandwiches from local eatery Hogan Brothers.
Friday also featured a much-anticipated event: speaker Kye Allums, a twenty-two year-old male who became the first openly transgendered division I women’s basketball player. Late Friday afternoon, Allums spoke to students in the Great Hall about his experiences coming out to his team at George Washington University, and the support he received from his teammates and coaches. Allums also served as a keynote speaker at the Minnesota OUT! Campus Conference, which was held at St. Olaf the same weekend.
“Kye was a very dynamic speaker and was able to share a deeply personal story with a great amount of humor and frankness,” said Tegra Straight, LGBT advisor at the GSC and Hall Director for Myers and Nourse.
“His presentation helped to establish the importance of intersecting identities, and to demonstrate how [an individual] can identify in ways that would seem contradictory to each other, such as identifying as a male while playing on a female team.”
Straight also spoke to the importance of Allums’ unique experiences as both an athlete and a transgendered individual. Athletics “have traditionally been an aspect of our society that is very gendered,”she said. “Kye’s experience as a transgender athlete is important because he was able to cross these lines and blur the binary that exists in college sports.”
Following Allums’ talk, Carleton also hosted a National Coming Out Day chapel service on Sunday, as well as “Tye Dye the Knot,” a more casual event, on Tuesday evening. “Tye Dye the Knot” offered students the opportunity to learn about the Minnesota Marriage Amendment while tye-dying a t-shirt at Q&A House.
“It was a different sort of event,” said Isaac Werner ‘14, a staff member at the GSC and an organizer for the event. He stressed that his intention was to provide students with a more laid-back environment to learn about the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, which is on the ballot in November. “It was more of a conversation” to raise awareness and to encourage students to vote, he said.
Coming Out Week ended with a memorable finale: over a hundred students packed inside the Great Hall for the Minnesotans United Rally. Alongside speakers and representatives from Minnesotans United for All Families, Carleton students and staff members rallied to raise opposition to the amendment.
“I felt like it really reached out to people,” said Chrissie Deutsch ’15. To her, the rally “represented an important way for college students to see how much impact they can make.”
On the whole, Carleton students have been vocal about their feelings toward the amendment. “I have yet to hear a compelling defense for the idea that marriage should be solely defined as between one man and one women,” said Alon Debiche ‘13.
“The attempt to define marriage as between a man and women strikes me as unfair and as an unnecessary state sponsored intrusion on what should be a private decision.”
Naeh Klages-Mundt ’14 agreed, adding that he found it “disheartening that the polls say that the issue is even close” among voters. “I hope I’m not overly optimistic about the prospect of Minnesota continuing to lead the nation by example, and reject the amendment.”