Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day and it is an occasion for people across the country to discuss Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) issues and to “come out of the closet.” Knox’s own Common Ground is taking the occasion and making a week of it, running a variety of events in the week of Oct. 10 through Oct. 16. Extending the day into a week-long celebration is a tradition that Common Ground has carried on for several years. This year’s events include a discussion on coming out (Monday), a queer literature night (Wednesday), and a coming out ball (Saturday), as well as a banner signing throughout the week.
Common Ground president, sophomore Ronni Neumann-Thompson and secretary, sophomore Matthew Becker, discussed the week’s events, suggesting that they would try to tie them in with the “It Gets Better” Campaign, an online effort started by sex columnist and gay activist Dan Savage to prevent suicides of gay teens by providing support and hope. Monday’s discussion was planned to be a continuation of a discussion from the previous week, centering on coming out, suicide, and harassment and personal stories.
The queer literature night was planned as an open-mic session, where people could bring in their favorite writings by LGBT authors or books that deal with gay themes. Neumann-Thompson and Becker said that one student was planning to read an excerpt from “Angels in America,” for example, and that another hoped to recite lyrics by a gay singer.
“The point of it is just getting some queer literature out there, because there isn’t much of it,” said Neumann-Thompson.
On Saturday, Oct. 17, Common Ground will host a coming out ball from 8 to 11 p.m. in Seymour Union Student Lounge. This is the second annual ball and it will include dancing and a space to “come out as anything from gay to a Batman fangirl,” said Neumann-Thompson.
“No awkwardness!” Becker said. “Come just however you want with whomever you want.”
Common Ground members will be tabling all week with a banner reading “I am out.” Neumann-Thompson encourages students to sign it, coming out as whatever they like. “You can come out as liking math, or being some variety of queer, or being a “Doctor Who” fan or liking FP,” she said.
Asked for thoughts on the week as a whole, Becker said, “It’s probably going to have the recurring theme of ‘It Gets Better.’”
Both he and Neumann-Thompson emphasized the importance of listening to and respecting people, especially during this time of coming out. “Coming out is often a difficult process, so being respectful of them is the key because it’s not easy,” Becker said.
Common Ground members shared their feelings about the week, echoing the message of support. “It’s a really important week to show both solidarity for those who have come out and support for those who haven’t, and to show those who haven’t that it’s okay to come out,” said senior Lauren Reid. Junior Beth McRill said, “It’s a really good idea to show people who may not have come out that they’re not alone, and it gives those who haven’t come out the courage to do so.”