GW Pride comes out, seeks gay awareness

GW Pride members and gay, lesbian and bisexual students celebrated National Coming Out Day Wednesday, gathering in front of the Marvin Center to make students aware of gay, lesbian and bisexual issues.

Under a rainbow of balloons, GW Pride members talked to students about upcoming events and handed out pamphlets and other resources from national gay and lesbian organizations.

Many GW Pride members were on hand to discuss what the day meant to them.

It’s symbolic, said sophomore Geoff Bieger, executive co-chair of GW Pride. We don’t expect any more people to come out today than any other day.

GW Pride members distributed literature published by activist organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to help students struggling with their sexuality.

I came out about a year ago to my family, and it’s just been a really tough journey, said senior Molly Adler, who said HRC resources have been helpful to her. If someone wants to come out, this kind of thing helps.

One out of three teen suicides is caused by stress related to sexuality, said Shannon Cate, a graduate student and adjunct professor at GW.

That equals moral imperative for people who work with kids to come out, she said.

A high school teacher at Wilson Senior High School in Northwest D.C., Cate said she has seen the effects of this stress on young people.

I was the only gay adult who was out, even though there were other gay teachers, she said, adding that about six to 10 students came out to her over the year. My girlfriend and I went to the senior prom, we chaperoned.

Cate said accepting environments can make it easier for students to come out about their sexuality.

It’s important for people who are safe coming out to come out more, so for people who aren’t safe coming out it will become safer, she said. I think it’s really important, especially for freshmen, that students know about (GW Pride) because college is a good time to explore parts of yourself that you weren’t safe exploring before.

Student participants said the main goal of the day was to promote awareness.

It’s unfortunate that we consider ourselves very liberal (at GW) but there’s some people on campus who can’t be themselves, Bieger said. It’s not just gay and lesbian students, it’s international students, it’s everyone.

Organizers also distributed information about the presidential election and the candidates’ stances on issues such as hate crime legislation, HIV/AIDS programs and equal rights laws.

We’re not for special rights, just equal rights, Bieger said.

Students said gays and lesbians are not the only ones who benefit from National Coming Out Day.

It’s very helpful for someone who isn’t sure about their sexuality, but it’s also helpful if you just want to be an activist, Adler said.

Freshman GW Pride member Grant Zallis said the day helped to promote a diverse campus environment.

It encourages members outside of our community to come in and learn tolerance and understanding, he said. This event is really great because we’re out in the open and people can see us.

GW Pride also co-sponsored a barbecue in Kogan Plaza with the Student Association and hosted a celebration in the Hippodrome.

It’s National Coming Out Day, so people will be sharing their stories, Bieger said. We all have different stories but they all share common aspects.

Students said they hope GW’s gay, lesbian and bisexual community continues to increase its visibility on campus.

I support it, sophomore Pete Macmanus said. I think there should be more days like this because (homosexuals) are not represented in any society . until the point where there doesn’t have to be gay awareness because it will just be a part of society.

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