Students `come out to Congress’

GW Pride set up a stand on the H Street Terrace Thursday to support alternative lifestyles and to lobby the U.S. government on National Coming Out Day.

National Coming Out Day is a nationwide program sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, a national non-profit organization advocating equal rights for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. This year’s theme, “Coming Out to Congress,” centered on increasing awareness of this community’s issues at a national level.

“The idea behind National Coming Out Day is that `closeted’ gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people throughout the nation will `come out of the closet’ in an effort to take a stand for their basic human rights,” said Jason Franklin, executive co-chairman of GW Pride.

A table was set up for students to write letters to their congressmen showing their support and concern for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered issues. Students could register to vote and pick up materials such as buttons, stickers and balloons.

Lambda Rising, a gay and lesbian bookstore, sold the rainbow flag displayed during the celebration at a discounted price to GW Pride in support of National Coming Out Day, Franklin said.

National Coming Out Day was not meant strictly for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community, Franklin said.

“Straight attendance is rising, which is encouraging since awareness is a big part of our goal,” Franklin said.

Franklin said he saw “a lot of new faces” at National Coming Out Day, including “quite a few freshmen,” compared to past events.

“What I found really interesting was the balance of gender at the event,” Franklin said. “Usually, we get a lot more males at our events, but this time the number of males and females was pretty much even.”

The event accomplished GW Pride’s mission to promote diversity around campus and shed light on often overlooked student issues, some members said.

“I think it’s an important day for America and D.C. in particular to recognize the silence that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people go through every day,” freshman GW Pride member Janice Stucke said. “We also have to stop treating it like it’s a disease.”

Franklin said GW Pride gathered more than 70 letters to deliver to Congress and ran out of “I’m straight but not narrow” buttons by the day’s end.

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