Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Coming Out Week began yesterday with a SQU Paces takeover (think penis pasta, breast cupcakes, and a trivia game about your favorite queer celebrities) and runs through November 5th. The week is sponsored by a long list of organizations, including the Swarthmore Queer Union, Colors (a closed group for queer students of color), Queer-Straight Alliance, None of the Above (a group for students who don’t identify as gay, lesbian, or straight), DESHI, Swarthmore Asian Organization, the Intercultural Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and the departments of Asian and Women’s Studies. SAO and DESHI are not traditionally associated with the queer community, but they are helping out with a screening of a movie about an HIV-positive man in India and also supporting the Colors meeting.
Throughout the year, many of the events for the queer community are closed, but Coming Out Week features multiple events that are open to the entire community. Tatiana Cozzarelli ’08, SQU intern to the IC, explained that while “the goal of Coming Out Week is primarily to serve the queer and questioning community on campus with fun events and activities… it is also meant to make everyone on campus, including straight people, think about queer issues and even their own sexual identity.”
Diana Pozo ’09, co-president of NOTA, would “like to urge non-queer students to take advantage of the open events. Not only would it be very exciting to see a lot of interest in queer issues from the entire campus, but these open events are going to be a lot of fun. Some people are intimidated by the fact that there are closed events, but the most fun events happening this week, like the Paces takeover and the party, as well as the free sushi, are open to all.”
On Monday, there will be an open “Trans Ally Workshop” at 4:30 in the WRC. Pozo stated that the workshop “is really for anyone who wants to get informed about trans issues, no experience or prior knowledge necessary.” At 10 PM in the IC there will be an open discussion about the meaning of “queer safe space” where people will have the opportunity to make “Queer Safe Space” signs for their dorm rooms. Cozzarelli explained, “we want to talk about how to make this campus as a whole, a queer safe space, which means challenging not only homophobia, but also heteronormativity.”
Tuesday brings “Rainbow Rolls and Jim Hormel” in McCabe Library at 4:30. Jim Hormel ’55, the first openly gay man to serve as a United States ambassador, will be giving a speech in the Out at the Library exhibit that has been up for the past month. The exhibit tells stories about the collections of the “James C. Hormel Gay + Lesbian Center” at the San Francisco Public Library. Free sushi will be served, and there will also be a bargain book sale of queer literature.
Tuesday night, there will be a closed None of the Above meeting in Bond Worship Room. NOTA is a new group on campus this year for those who identify as anything that’s not gay, lesbian, or straight; it welcomes bi-, pan-, omni, and multisexual students as well as nonidentified or questioning students. Pozo described it as “primarily a discussion group… we’ve developed a core group of people who attend regularly, and there are normally a few newcomers at each meeting. Hopefully, having our meeting be thematically consistent with the Week will bring us more publicity and allow us to help more NOTA people on campus.”
Wednesday at 10 PM, there will be an open SQU meeting in the IC about “The Spectrum,” and on Thursday at 5:30 in the WRC, there will be a closed dinner where faculty and staff members will share their coming out stories. Also on Thursday, at 10 PM in the Intercultural Center, there is a meeting open to all people of color in the IC about being queer and of color.
Friday night will glam it up with “The Runway Party” at Paces, Saturday brings “S’mores and Coming Out Stories,” a closed event with time and location yet to be announced, and on Sunday, a screening of “My Brother Nikhil” will serve as a bridge event between Coming Out Week and Deshi Week. The movie is about an HIV-positive man in India in the late 1980s.
You can also expect to see the traditional sexual chalkings this week. People sometimes question the purpose of the chalkings, but Cozzarelli said that “because sexual identity is often hidden, or made into a non-issue, the chalkings allow all people on this campus to be conscious and even uncomfortable with their sexual identity, something that most queer people feel everyday.”
Pozo summed it up by saying “Coming Out Week is for queer visibility. This is our time to reach out to the rest of campus and let them know what we’re all about. For those of us who are queer, or who have been recently questioning their sexual orientation, Coming Out Week is about having lots of queer-themed events, letting people know that there’s a strong queer presence here, and just having fun.”