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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

College’s annual addresses, supports Iowa’s gay marriage equality law

With at least one event a day, Coming Out Week is an intense period of celebration of the LGBTQ community coupled with education and activism from October 3 to 11. Thrown by the Stonewall Resource Center, an umbrella organization for student groups about sexual identity, Coming Out Week plans to outdo previous years through both their partnership with formerly uninvolved groups and through a number of educational panels.

The culmination of the week will be National Coming Out Day and will involve the unveiling of the Coming Out Photo Project in the JRC Lobby, a panel on Systematic Gendered Violence and a movie screening of the film “Coming Out under Fire,” a documentary about the military policies affecting homosexuals serving during World War II.

“National Coming Out Day is a celebration and a day set aside to raise awareness about issues affecting LGBTQ communities,” said Elliot Karl, SRC Manager, “The politics of coming out and invisibility are especially important for Queer communities because, unlike other marginalized groups, LGBTQ people face oppression and marginalization by being silenced, by having their identities excluded from public spaces.”

National Coming Out Day dates back to 1988. Jean O’Leary, an openly gay Los Angeles politician, and psychologist Robert Eichberg, created National Coming Out Day in an effort to generate support for the LGBTQ community and commemorate the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on October 11, 1987.

Karl added that the act of coming out is not only a personal action, but also a political one, in which an people assert their rights as a member of an oppressed group.

“We’re celebrating both the self-awareness that people may have of themselves and the willingness to want to share important parts of their lives with other people, but also the political action of asserting our rights as sexual citizens in public space,” Karl said. “That’s the political angle of Coming Out Day.” For that reason, Karl sees Coming Out Day as “the capstone event.”

“It’s about being yourself and feeling comfortable as a citizen and as a sexual citizen in public space,” said Karl, “That’s where the personal meets the political.”

Although Coming Out Week draws its name from the process through which LGBTQ identified people come to accept their sexuality and let others know about it, Program Coordinator Jarrett Joubert emphasized that the week’s events are about much more than that process.

“Our events aren’t about coming out per se, but use the process as a springboard to talk about something else,” said Joubert, “This year, for example, we’re bringing in a speaker to talk about the gay blood ban, which is relevant because when you donate blood, you’re forced to out yourself in order to donate, or not donate in that case.”

Additionally, there will be panels on the process of reconciling queer and Christian identities, on being queer in the workplace and how that factors into applying for jobs, and on systematic gendered violence.

“I think it’s great that we’re able to couple these fun events with educational and activist events,” Karl said.

One activist event offered during Coming Out Week deals with the important issue of defending marriage equality in Iowa. On Sunday, the SRC is co-hosting a phone bank with the Campus Democrats to get voter support for Liz Mathis, a candidate for a seat in the Iowa State Senate.

“Basically, if she does not get this seat and it goes to a Republican instead, then marriage equality in the state of Iowa will be in jeopardy,” Joubert said, “If that happens, it will also put collective bargaining rights in jeopardy. … Sometimes there’s a critique that there’s a lot of talk but not a whole lot of action on campus, so this is a way that people can very readily be active,” Joubert said.

Overall, Coming Out Week has tried more so than in past years to create a balance of fun activities, political activism and educational panels.

“We’re trying to cover all of our bases with more light-hearted events but also hard-hitting academic discussions, like the panels on the FDA ban on queer blood and getting a job as a queer person in the United States,” Karl said.

On Wednesday, the SRC partnered with Grinnellians Seeking Christ to host a panel and bake night entitled “Processes to Peace: Being LGBTQ, Being Christian.” Diversity and Inclusion Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Elena Bernal, and a local pastor Kirsten Klepfer, spoke alongside three current Grinnellians about their personal experiences reconciling two of their identities: being queer and being Christian and the process of finding a point of peace with that.

“Issues related to queerness and Christianity are silenced on campus, bottom line, and there’s a critique that discussion always breaks down. Well, this is where we are going to put it back together,” Joubert said.

For the SRC, this panel marked the exciting start of the collaboration between the two groups. GSC is a new religious group on campus.

Caitlin Beling ’12 was impressed after hearing the stories of the five panelists.

“I thought that the Being LGBTQ, Being Christian panel was extremely insightful. Each panel member gave a unique and interesting perspective,” Beling said, “I feel that we, as a Grinnell College Community, should have more of these types of conversations.”

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