submitted by SCOTT WILLIAMS
additional reporting by NICK BUCHANAN
This month marks the recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) History Month, and student activist group SPECTRUM will soon launch its celebration of the month with projects for National Coming Out Day, an event sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign that has been celebrated annually on Oct. 11 since the late 1980s.
On Tuesday, Oct. 5 and Thursday, Oct. 8, members will sit in the Gillmor Student Center with a door on which students, staff, and faculty can sign their name to show support for both those who have come out and those who have yet to do so.
In addition, the group will host an open forum meeting on Oct. 8 from 8:00 until 9:00 p.m. in Main 13. Attendees will have a chance to share and listen to diverse coming out stories. Participation is voluntary; forum members will not be forced to tell their stories. Co-curricular credit will be offered to those who attend.
“Coming out is a significant stage in any LGBT member’s journey. It signifies that point in their life when they have finally come to terms with who they are and are willing share it with the ones closest to them,” said Scott Williams, SPECTRUM Public Relations Officer. “One of the common struggles of coming out is usually an institution in their life that may not be accepting of them, or there is an uncertainty to whether they will be or not. These institutions, like family, friends, or religion, could hurt the person if they are not accepting, and therefore, there’s this constant struggle of ‘do I let these people know who I am and let them think differently of me for it?’ or ‘do I just keep it to myself where it’s painful?’”
Despite a monumental year for LGBT Americans with the June 26 ruling in favor of marriage equality, the fight for complete equality is far from over; coming out and LGBT visibility will still serve very important purposes in the post-marriage equality society.
“The notion that, after the passing of the marriage equality bill, LGBT members now have a level playing field is not only accepted by many outside of the LGBT community, but also on the inside,” Williams said. “Many people don’t know, both in and out of the community, that there are still 1,600 rights that members of the LGBT community are denied. We are still fighting to secure those 1,600 rights. One of the main ones that coming out puts us in danger of is that there are still many states – the majority of states, including Ohio – that you can still be fired from your job […] simply for coming out.”
In addition to the Coming Out Day events, SPECTRUM members will continue to celebrate LGBT History Month throughout October.
“Our other main event […] is our LGBT Q&A. This is an open forum where students can ask questions to a panel of staff and faculty who are well-versed on the subject,” Williams said.
LGBT Q&A will take place on Monday, Oct. 19 at 8:30 p.m. in Main 13.
There is assistance available both on and off campus for students who struggle with their sexuality or gender identity. The Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign are two of the most notable national advocacy organizations. They both offer online resources, but the Trevor Project specifically specializes in LGBT crisis. The Trevor Lifeline, a suicide and crisis hotline for LGBT youth, can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-488-7386.
“There are hundreds of resources for members of the community, and especially here on Tiffin University’s campus. Not only are there several offices around campus where you can see a little rainbow triangle that lets you know that the person in that office has been trained to help LGBT crisis situations, but there are also several organizations around campus [such as SPECTRUM] that can help you,” said Williams. “There are several students who also have that rainbow triangle on their doors, in their residence halls, or wherever they may be, who are willing to help you. And in the worst case scenario, just reach out to your friends.”
SPECTRUM, formerly known as GLASS, stands for Sexuality, Pride, Equality, Community, Teaching, Respect, Ubiquity, and Mentorship. The organization’s goal is to provide a supportive and educational collective for students who identify in the gender and sexual diversity community. The group meets every Thursday at 8:00 p.m. in Main 13.