This year's National Coming Out Day at Portland State University's
Queer Resource Center has extra significance this year.
That's because Rutgers Univerity freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide last month
by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate broadcast footage of his sexual encounter with another man on the internet. Across the country here at Portland State, the QRC today began celebrating the annual National Coming Out Day by encouraging young LGBT students to come out of the closet.
"It feels different to me" says volunteer coordinator Mel Mundell of this year's National Coming Out Day. "There seems to more of need and more of a desire for people in the campus and the larger community environments to get together and talk."
National Coming Out Day kicks off two weeks of activities at PSU highlighting LGBT History Month. Leaders at the QRC began the events today by releasing an "Outlist," which they posted around campus. The list features 300 names of PSU's queer community and allies, and the QRC expects to expand the list throughout the year. The QRC also held an open house, which served as a meet-and-greet for community members and staff.
Other events will include a Q Patrol training workshop on Thursday afternoon and a "Guess the Straight" panel discussion on Thursday evening. The discussion will allow audience members to ask four panelists questions in a game show format and then vote on which panelist they think is straight.
"It's the first time we've launched this program" says Mundell of the discussion. "It's going to be a queer-identified, student-run panel. People in the audience will be asked to identify characteristics. The idea is to challenge the stereotypes around the queer community."
Queer student services coordinator Cathlene McGraw, who brought the Outlist to PSU, hopes the next two weeks will challenge a lot of stereotypes. She also introduced the Outlist to the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, both of which she has worked at in the past. This is her first her first year at PSU, and she says the suicide of the freshman from Rutgers has been difficult.
"There's a lot of negative stuff about gay people in the media," says McGraw. "So, to have a positive time is good."
For more information and a schedule of events, visit http://www.qrc.pdx.edu/