Saluki Rainbow Network hosts Coming Out Week

By Gus Bode

Factoid:Upcoming speeches for GLBT month:”Gay 101″ will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Troy/Corinth room of the Student Center, and “Constructing Gay Identity in the United States” will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Troy/Corinth room.

Coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can be one of the hardest decisions some people have to face.

Leah Reinert, a senior from Decatur studying University studies, said for some this can also mean acceptance by others, and most importantly, it means acceptance of the self.

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Several students attended a panel discussion session Monday about coming out and what it means to be gay at SIUC.

Saluki Rainbow Network sponsored the event and is also in charge of events for Coming Out Week, which will be held in conjunction with the University’s GLBT History Month.

Reinert, SRN co-director, said the main goal of the event was to show students the benefits of coming out regardless of which sexual orientation they may identify.

“It is a scary thing,” Reinert said. “It’s kind of like you’re jumping off a cliff. When I wasn’t out, it was something that was always on my mind. It’s a freeing experience.”

National Coming Out Day started in 1988. It is held on Oct. 11 to celebrate the first sizeable gay march, the “March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights,” which took place on that day in 1987.

Reinert said the turnout for the event is usually low. The discussion drew 17 students, some of whom attended for extra credit in a University studies class.

Erin Affrunti, a freshman from Springfield studying physiology, was among those who listened to the stories about gay issues. Though she came for extra credit, she said she always takes the opportunity to learn.

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“I think it’s good to get involved in your culture,” Affrunti said. “Even if some people don’t agree with it, it is our culture.”

Reinert shared with the audience her experience of being an out lesbian at SIUC. Though most of her experiences were positive, she did share stories of bias and hate she has to deal with for being who she is.

One such event occurred at the University two years ago. During Coming Out Week, SRN used to paint the school’s pride rocks in rainbow colors. The rocks, which are no longer in existence, were found the next day painted over with black crosses and anti-gay slurs.

“That one was really hard to swallow,” Reinert said. “We’re trying to send the message that it’s good to come out. Hateful messages do not help that.”

Though Reinert said those stories discourage GLBT students from coming out, she said she has never been a victim of hateful actions.

Even students who are not gay, lesbian or bisexual are affected by homophobia and anti-gay slurs. Mahala Logue, a freshman from Jacksonville studying physiology, said she never sits down when it comes to gay rights.

“Sometimes I can’t help it,” Logue said. “We shouldn’t hate people for who they are.”

Other events for the week include:”Gay 101,” a question and answer session about “queer terminology and knowledge,” and “Constructing Gay Identity in the United States,” a talk about gay identity in the nation.

Reporter Julie Engler can be reached at [email protected]

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