Celebrate National Coming Out Day with the Center for Gender Equity
Pacific University and the Center for Gender Equity (CGE) celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community during National Coming Out Day on Monday, Oct. 11. Stop by the CGE in room 127 of Scott Hall from 5 to 7 p.m. to share rainbow cupcakes and coming out stories. Students, faculty and staff are welcome!
National Coming Out Day originated 33 years ago with a march on Washington for lesbian and gay rights. The event has grown to a month-long observance in October of LQBT History Month, which has grown to include the LGBT+ community as well as civil rights milestones.
“It’s an opportunity to build community and support by sharing coming out stories,” said V Martin, CGE director. “We'll also have an out list of staff and faculty who have shared their name, their pronouns, their department and their sexual identities and/or gender identities so students know that there are employees on campus that they can safely go to if they need something.”
Coming out is a lifelong process, and Martin has advice for students who fall under the queer and trans umbrella. For instance, she says, it may not be a good idea to come out during the holidays when emotions, stress and alcohol can create a volatile mix. Students also must factor in harsh economic realities.
“Before coming out all the way, if they're financially dependent in any way, being really clear about, ‘Can I lose this source of funding? Will that be okay? Will I be able to be safe and survive on my own?’ because that's a big reality for a lot of our queer trans students, being cut off financially from their parents,” Martin said. “That can be really scary, so I make sure students feel really confident being on their own.”
Martin wants to create a safer environment for students and employees. The benefit of the Center for Gender Equity being a broad resource center and not just focused on LGBTQIA+ issues is that people can dip their toes in and slowly inch their way out of the closet.
She hopes to design an option where students can share these identities (if they choose) so that they can immediately be connected with LGBTQIA+ resources on campus. She’s are also working with Human Resources to provide a bit of information on resources and support for new queer and trans staff and faculty.
Martin recently organized an LGBTQIA+ affinity group for faculty and staff. Like student groups, she said the employee group is important for retention, especially for queer and trans people who may feel intentionally marginalized.
“It can be really overwhelming to be around a majority of folks who aren’t like you in a very primary way. Even if people are nice, it’s still different than being with people that understand your lived experience. I’m hoping we can retain queer and trans staff in order to support our queer and trans students,” Martin said.
Martin said she decided to work at Pacific because she has friends who are alumni who described the university as queer-friendly. A recent email she received from housing about gender-inclusive housing highlights that. While there isn’t an entire floor yet, there are several rooms available. Work is also underway to provide a specific RA just for gender-inclusive housing, and looking at what kind of activities and support can be provided to students who choose that housing option.
CGE staff also has a list of priorities. Students are talking about fashioning a Queer Closet resale shop for all students in partnership with the Center for Sustainability and the Tom McCall Center for Civic Engagement. The closet would help the environment and provide affordable clothes for all students on a tight budget.
Pacific University and CGE offer resources for students to explore their gender and sexuality as well as resources to educate the community about the LGBTQIA+ community. Martin encourages people to follow queer and trans folks, activists, politicians and entertainers on social media to get a glimpse of someone else’s perspective on life.
Learning a person’s pronouns is also imperative. Martin says using the wrong pronoun is disrespectful, like calling someone by the wrong name.
“There’s always work to be done,” said Martin.
Join CGE and celebrate National Coming Out Day as well as other events in October recognizing the LGBTQIA+ community.