Students Organize for Understanding

October 11, 2010

It’s difficult enough to be a college student: juggling classes, staying on top of work, and taking part in social activities. But today’s college students struggle with defining sexual identity more than ever — chronicled in recent news stories across the country. Colleges nationwide will honor students looking to voice their sexuality October 11–17, National Coming Out Week.

“This week gives all those in our community a chance to stand proudly and say ‘I’m out!’ in some way, shape, or form,” said Caitlin Henck ’12, president of the on-campus group SOULS, or Sisters Out Understanding and Loving Sisters. “In light of recent national events, this is also a time for reflection on the process of the Gay Rights Movement and the fight for equality. It is important to not only acknowledge the freedoms we experience today, but also the blood, sweat, and tears of those before us who have made it so.”

Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, learned too soon the violence and hate crimes experienced with embracing his lifestyle. The 18-year-old violin player jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge last month after two classmates allegedly streamed video of Clementi having relations with another man. Colleges across the country are seizing the opportunity to open up a dialogue about recent spates of bullying.

Mary Baldwin’s SOULS club will host a variety of events and information sessions. The events kicked off October 10 with the Newlywed Game and a panel discussion, featuring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and heterosexual students. Faculty and community members also sat on the panel, opening up about their life choices.

On Monday, the group will pass out pamphlets and talk with students during lunch and dinner. On-campus events will wrap up with a candlelight ceremony at 9 p.m. October 13 on the hill in front of Hunt Dining Hall to honor LGBT students around the country who’ve lost their lives and those who’ve found the voice to come out. The event is open to the public.

The observance “is traditionally a civil awareness week for coming out and discussing LGBT issues among the general populace in an effort to give a familiar face to the LGBT rights movement,” said Andrew Brendon Ojeda, organizer of the Facebook site for planning college activities.