Penn State’s annual National Coming Out Week event kicks off today under the theme “Come Out, Speak Out!”
While student groups and the LGBTA Student Resource Center will spearhead the events, a distinct community is demonstrated throughout the week, as members of the Rainbow Roundtable will assist in the set-up of other groups’ endeavors, Jenny Shipley , Rainbow Roundtable president, said.
For those involved, the week’s festivities are more than a few nights of recognition, but an opportunity to welcome those who recently “come out” into the LGBT community. This year’s theme will also promote the importance of activism once one enters the community.
“There’s always the strengthening of the [spirit] of community that comes from pridetastic events like these,” Shipley (senior-mechanical engineering) said.
She also said the events during the week, especially the HUB takeover, will serve as a warm welcoming to the community for those who have struggled with their sexuality or for those who do not know an openly gay, bisexual or transgender person. Because of its location, Shipley said the festivities are in the public eye and allow all to partake in the events.
For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally Student Coalition co-president Spencer Paret , the week is more focused on activism for the LGBT community.
“It’s a very personal experience, coming out,” Paret (sophomore-division of undergraduate studies) said. “But there is also [this] time [of] year that we need to come out into the community and speak out into the community where there is a sense of false equality.”
For Paret, once someone is out as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individual, it is his or her duty to speak out about the issues that surround the community on campus and beyond.
“There’s a lot people don’t know about. [They] think oppression and rights are the same for everybody but they’re not,” Paret said. “If I want to donate blood, I can’t. If I want to walk down College Avenue hold a guy’s hand, I can’t. I mean I can, but I can’t.”
To those outside of the community, National Coming Out Week will serve as an education of sexual orientation on campus.
Dora Zhang said that while she has been a Penn Stater for three years, she was unaware of the week.
“I haven’t heard about [National Coming Out Week before], but I think it’s a good idea for us to get to know more about it and be open minded,” Zhang (senior-psychology) said. “It’s good for [those in the LGBT community] to get to express their feelings and let others accept them.”