Coming out party
“Minds are like parachutes, they only function when they are open.” The phrase, one of many scrawled on to a makeshift door frame adorned with clothes hangers and a lone red sweater, summed up this year’s annual National Coming Out Day at Chico State.
Members of PRIDE, a campus organization for lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and questioning students, set up an information booth and a simulated closet this week for the event, which is recognized annually in 21 states.
There was also a list of famous gays and bisexuals like James Dean and Alexander the Great as well as short stories and poems detailing students’ experiences with coming out.
But the event was about more than simply coming out of the proverbial closet.
“It’s mainly for those coming out as an ally or someone who supports equal rights,” said Tyler Disney, vice president for PRIDE.
Disney and other members of the organization handed out fluorescent pink-and-green stickers with the words, “I came out as an ally” to passing students. He said there had been no negative reaction to their presence, only a few who refused to take a sticker.
The issue of homosexuality has become more accepted at Chico State in the two years Disney has attended, which he attributes to the efforts of groups like PRIDE, the A.S. Women’s Center and The Stonewall Alliance.
“It was kind of like the military—don’t ask, don’t tell,” Disney said of his first experiences at Chico State. “but groups like this have really made a difference.”
Disney said attendance at PRIDE meetings was also pretty dismal over the last couple of years.
“I think getting people organized to discuss something they’re afraid of is difficult,” Disney said.
This year, the average attendance at weekly PRIDE meetings has skyrocketed from about five students to 40—a figure Disney said continues to grow.
Chico State also recently became the third CSU campus to establish a Sexual Diversity minor this semester.
Freshman Christian Marquez, who signed his name to a poster with the heading: “I believe in equality,” has heard first-hand accounts of homophobia from his girlfriend, who is bisexual. But Marquez said he’s fascinated with how people have come together and hopes others will become educated as well.
National Coming Out Day was established Oct. 11, 1987 when half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The first official Coming Out Day was celebrated in 18 states and garnered national media attention on The Oprah Winfrey Show, USA Today and CNN.
Sophomore Evelyn Kinner added her signature to the collection. She said Chico is a pretty tolerant town and believes homosexuality is more accepted among students.
Kinner said PRIDE and events like National Coming Out Day are both helping explain why sexual orientation shouldn’t affect how people are treated in this country.
“People have the right to be happy, no matter what.”