Online OUTober: Virtual Coming Out Day celebrations mark LGBTQ History Month at Georgetown

October 25, 2020

Students celebrate Coming Out Day in Red Square in 2019. Courtesy of GUPride

This October’s annual “OUTober” and Coming Out Day events featured videos of students emerging from bedroom closets and student-faculty conversations held over Zoom as the Georgetown University LGBTQ Resource Center and GUPride celebrated through a virtual setting. The festivities, which commemorate LGBTQ History Month, provided Georgetown’s LGBTQ community with a celebration of pride and identity and fostered conversations on gender, sexuality, and society.

The remote semester has posed a challenge to extracurricular activities, but on-campus organizations have worked to provide a sense of community through virtual and social media-centered events—a mindset that defined this year’s OUTober itinerary. 

While the LGBTQ Resource Center cut down on the number of events typically scheduled throughout the month, they offered weekly virtual lectures and discussions to engage students, faculty, staff, and alumni. “We’ve really had that broad range of much smaller discussions and larger presentations about LGBTQ history,” Ben Telerski (COL ’23), an employee of the resource center, said. Recent events included a presentation on queer life in Nazi Germany given by Dean Samuel Aronson, which drew over 70 attendees, and a more intimate conversation regarding faith, family, and sexuality.

Coming Out Day, celebrated globally on October 11, is usually marked at Georgetown by a public celebration in Red Square, where GUPride erects a door frame participants walk (or dance) through to represent the metaphorical coming out of the closet. This year, however, the celebration looked much different. 

“Traditionally, Coming Out Day is such a big, loud, in-your-face event,” Matt Failor (SFS ’23), the president of GUPride, said. In order to simulate the on-campus events, Failor said, the Pride board collected coming out stories from GUPride members and filmed a lighthearted video of Pride board members literally coming out of closets.

“Let people know that no matter how you decide to come out, when you decide to come out, your story is valid.”

While the stories and video published on the GUPride Instagram generated significant traction, including several requests for coming-out advice, Failor emphasized GUPride’s primary goal in continuing the event virtually was to amplify the voices of LGBTQ students. “[Coming Out Day] is very focused on who we are and how our sexual orientation and how our identity fits into our place in the community, both the queer community and the broader campus community,” Failor said.

According to Failor, the event was also an excellent opportunity to draw in first-year students to the organization. Both GUPride and the LGBTQ Resource Center have worked throughout the semester to connect with first-year students seeking a safe and accepting community at Georgetown. GUPride has seen a notable increase in interest in its deputy Pride board program for first-year students, according to Failor, while the LGBTQ Resource Center has created a mentorship program to create connections across different years.

“Right now, we have about 30 first-year students who’ve been put into groups and paired with upperclass students as mentors and they meet once a week or so to talk about what’s going on in their own lives, what it’s like to be queer at Georgetown, just being able to have someone who knows much more about Georgetown,” Telerski said.

The semester at home has brought unique struggles to LGBTQ students who may be stuck in unsafe or unwelcoming environments, making mental health and student safety a top priority for GUPride and the LGBTQ Resource Center. The resource center holds weekly LGBTQIA+ Student Support Group therapy meetings in conjunction with CAPS, and GUPride is shifting their focus to advocating for basic safety for students in the anticipation of a mostly virtual spring semester.

“In regards to, for instance, what housing is going to look like next semester: are queer, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming individuals going to be given the opportunity to get housing if they come from poor family environments? [These are] the sort of issues that will pop up that our advocacy team is working on that may sort of fly under the radar,” said Failor.

As the semester progresses, GUPride and the LGBTQ Resource Center will continue to offer support and guidance to students, as well as an array of upcoming events. The resource center offers OUTober events throughout the month culminating in a virtual performance of “Angels in America” on Oct. 27. GUPride is also planning a virtual event to commemorate Trans Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20 as a stand-in for their annual candlelight vigil.

“We just want to stay focused and make sure that the voices in the community are heard and add to the efforts with the university while we continue to build a community,” Failor said.

Details for upcoming events can be found on the Georgetown LGBTQ Resource Center website.

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