Mount Holyoke News 1996-1997

October 10, 1996

"LBA celebrates coming out" and letter to the editor

LBA celebrates coming out
Full week of activities planned

by Julie Gerstein '00

In accordance with National Coming Out day, the Mount Holyoke Lesbian and Bisexual Alliance has organized a week of events to recognize the importance and significance of the day.

This year's National Coming Out Day marks the ninth anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights as well as the inaugural visit of the Names Project AIDS Quilt to Washington, DC.

"It's a celebration of pride," said Laura Betts '99, co-facilitator of the LBA.

The official Coming Out Day is October 11. Several colleges, community centers and organizations are holding week-long festivities.

The purpose of Coming Out Week is to raise the public's consciousness around issues of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender life in opposition to hetero-normative values.

According to the Human Rights Campaign 1996 press statement, an important aspect of the National Coming Out Project is to "increase the visibility of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community." Coming out "helps turn ignorance into acceptance. This requires being truthful about sexual orientation to show that the community crosses all ethnic, racial, geographic, and economic barriers," the campaign said.

"I think one of the easiest ways to combat homophobia is to come out. If someone knows you and they care about you, then they can deal with what's going on with them, and their feelings," Betts said. " It helps them, and you're taking away a lie in your life so it's helping you. It's making them face their homophobia and deal with it."

The LBA planned several events in recognition of Coming Out Week. On Friday, October 4, author Torie Osborn kicked off National Coming Out week on campus. She read from her book, Coming Home to America: A Roadmap to Gay and Lesbian Empowerment, and discussed it at Dickinson House. The author was on hand to facilitate discussion and answer questions about her work.

The Wall, a project originally sponsored by Spectrum and the LBA, will take place in Blanchard all week long. The purpose of the project is to exhibit artwork concerning sexuality.

"It's for anyone who wants to put up an account," LBA Secretary Mellanye Lackey '98 said. " Students can decorate pieces of paper, put quotes on, put a story on, and they will plaster the walls of Blanchard with them," Lackey said.

There was an LBA poetry reading at the Coffee Grind Wednesday evening. The reading, which was primarily run by students, gave women a chance to express themselves through spoken words.

"There's going to be more of these planned throughout the year," Betts said.

The Second Annual Coming Out Tea will take place on the steps of Blanchard this afternoon.

"It's going to be fun, music, games, hopefully some volleyball. People can come and go as they please ... We want to create a safe and open location where people don't feel pressured," said Betts.

"[The LBA] is more than just a support system," Lackey said. "We're providing a sense of community. I know very few people who get strong support from home, so we serve as something of an extended family for each other," she said.

The Coming Out Day celebration ends with the Come Out and Dance party on Friday, October 19.

LBA meetings are held every Tuesday night at 8:30 pm in the New York room "We have a lot of interest in keeping it going. We really want to get a lot of things done."

LBA: What is your message?

We are frustrated with the excessive nature of the LBA's celebration of Coming Out Week. Is it necessary to have Mount Holyoke LBA plastered on every bathroom stall, residence hall door, academic and non-academic building along with the surrounding community streets, not to mention Mary Lyon's grave (which have been respectfully removed)?

Such excess is taking away any meaning or sincerity the week could and should have on this campus. Instead this has been made into a mockery.

Do you think the best method of communicating your message is through writing "we love women" on Route 116? How ridiculous would it be if a group of heterosexual women were to write "we love men" in the same location? By wrapping the campus up in rainbow colors, attempting to show the campus is an accepting place for all, it is in fact doing the opposite for some. Why should coming out week be any different from other awareness weeks? Imagine if every campus organization were to placard the campus in this manner. For example, if MHACASA, AIDS Awareness, Systa, WHEN, La Unidad, Water Polo, Ceramics Club, Bellatrix, Lunar Howling Society, HOPE, Glee Club and the French club were to each post signs on every single bathroom stall and on each building on campus. Then every day of the year the campus would look as ridiculous as it does right now.

It seems to be an aggressive attack rather than a recognition of a national awareness week. We find it completely inappropriate to plaster the campus with stickers and absolutely appalling that slogans for LBA or any other organization should be hung on Mary Lyon's grave.

We thought the purpose of celebrating national coming out week was for the lesbian and bisexual community to unite in order to provide strength in numbers against future discrimination based on sexual preference.

Such excessive measures of publicity only aggravate the campus with their cheap stunts rather than rallying support for students who are questioning their sexual identity. As the LBA sign states: "Don't Assume Anything" so please don't assume this letter is a symptom of homophobia. It simply needs to be stated that this week has been handled inappropriately.

Kathy Stanfield '97
Bonnie Nickerson '97
Erin Hickey '97
Eilin Merten '99
Susi Krehbiel '98

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