Gay? It’s OK!
This is the message the more-than 30,000 students enrolled at Temple University, as well as the institution’s faculty, staff and administration, will see and hear repeatedly during the school’s National Coming Out Week festivities.
Beginning Oct. 5, Temple will host a series of LGBT-related activities to demonstrate to those in the Temple community — individuals who are already out or those who are struggling with their sexual identity — that there are countless supportive people and organizations at the university.
Temple has hosted activities in the past to recognize National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, but Nu’Rodney Prad, a resident director at the school, said this year the university’s programming is much more extensive and formalized.
“There was a group of administrators and we were discussing different diversity initiatives on campus, and we felt that it would be enlightening to have a whole National Coming Out Week series that would incorporate a lot of different programs throughout the week,” Prad said about the motivation for the event. “So then we went around to different areas of campus to pull together people to help facilitate this, like some of the resident directors and Residential Life staff, the different student activities and the HEART [Health Education Awareness Resource Team] Office.”
Prad said students from Queer Student Union, Temple’s gay-straight alliance, have also taken on leadership roles in developing and promoting NCOW.
On Monday and Tuesday, volunteers will canvas the campus handing out T-shirts, each of which represents a different color of the rainbow and bears the week’s motto.
QSU will host a social and screening of the film “Milk” Monday night, and the next night organizers will stage “GLBTQ Portrayals in the Media: Fact or Fiction?” a discussion about such programs as “The L Word” and “Noah’s Arc.”
LGBT and ally students will take the stage Wednesday for “Come Out, Speak Out,” when they will be encouraged to tell their own coming-out stories and share challenges they’ve faced in any spoken-word format they choose.
On Thursday, LGBT and ally students will be invited to a community-resources fair, where they can learn more about on-campus departments and student organizations as well as groups within the Philadelphia LGBT community. Then on Saturday, Temple is sponsoring a trip for students to attend a House Ball event in New Jersey.
The week’s events will culminate with a rally from noon-12:30 p.m. Thursday at Temple’s Bell Tower, where participants will be encouraged to wear the NCOW T-shirts to promote visibility.
“We’re not rallying for a specific cause but rather for awareness. We already have good visibility on campus, but we want to keep it going,” Prad said. “Student leaders will be wearing those shirts and taking the stage to represent themselves and the community and making sure that people know that being gay is not a bad thing.”
While NCOW can help some in the heterosexual Temple community to better understand and respect the school’s LGBT community, Prad said he thinks its most beneficial effect will be on those who are slowly taking steps out of the closet.
“We need to do these types of events for students who think they don’t have anyone to ally themselves with. They do have plenty of people here who support and accept them. We want to present them with resources, like QSU, where they can come and talk about what they’re going through. Coming out is a difficult process for students, especially freshmen coming right out of high school or even upperclassmen, so we want them to see that they’re not alone.”