A small tent adorned with rainbow sheets, pictures of muscled men and pin-up girls sits in the South Park Blocks. A large purple curtain decorates the front of this makeshift display, with a sign that prominently displays “The Closet” hanging from the top. Then the display opens–gay and straight students alike come out smiling.
A small tent adorned with rainbow sheets, pictures of muscled men and pin-up girls sits in the South Park Blocks. A large purple curtain decorates the front of this makeshift display, with a sign that prominently displays “The Closet” hanging from the top.
Then the display opens–gay and straight students alike come out smiling.
The closet display is part of “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are,” a National Coming Out Day celebration that PSU and its Queer Resource Center (QRC) held yesterday on campus. This is the first time the annual event was held in the South Park Blocks.
Zena Piccolo, external coordinator for the QRC, said the goal of having it outside was to increase communication on campus regarding queer-related issues.
“National Coming Out Day is an event that is celebrated by the whole queer community across the country,” Piccolo said. “The actual coming out isn’t as important as the opportunities to build communication.”
Students stopped by to learn more about the QRC, coming out of the closet and how to be a straight supporter for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. Music and food were also provided, and students could pose for pictures.
The event was part show, part educational display, and the overall mood was kept light. People were asked to enter the closet display and emerge to show their support for queer rights.
Ben Marks, publicity coordinator for the PSU student group Queers and Allies, was dressed in a pink tutu. Calling himself the “Fairy Goddaddy,” Marks posed for pictures and drew small crowds with his getup. The outfit was a little cold, he said.
The crowd was sparse at times, and Marks said there could have been a lot more participation, but he still thought the event went well.
Piccolo said the day is about fun, but serious and emotional issues are the basis of the event.
“We are aiming for this to be more on the lighthearted side with a serious core,” she said.
National Coming Out Day began in 1988 as part of the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, a large political rally that took place in Washington, D.C. It is celebrated around the world.
To show support, many students wore pink clothing and rainbow ribbons.
Wearing a pink shirt with the words “Homophobia is a social disease” written on the back, Tash Shatz, equal rights advocate for the Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU), chatted with people and helped work the ASPSU booth.
Shatz said he was happy to participate in the event and that PSU, and Portland in general, is generally open-minded when it comes to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.
This open-mindedness can make some people forget the struggles queer students and others face around the country, he said.
“We sometimes forget that there are places that people are killed for being openly gay,” Shatz said.
The tent, loud music and “Fairy Goddaddy” interested some students enough to stop and look closer. Keith Moore was on his way to class when he decided to stop and take some pictures. Moore is not always a supporter of gay rights and said he will not be helping with the QRC anytime soon, but admitted that he was intrigued by the display.
“This is incredibly entertaining,” he said as he snapped pictures.
The theme for National Coming Out Day is “Talk About It,” and Shatz said the message gets to the heart of what events like yesterday’s celebration are about. The Human Rights Campaign, a national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, held the event.
“That really gets to the heart about everything,” said Shatz. “To be visible and talk about being queer.”
About the QRC:
The goal of the Portland State University Queer Resource Center is to provide a safe space for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender staff and faculty, as well as allies and questioning students. The QRC is in Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 401.
Visit www.qrc.pdx.edu for more information.