All colors will fly this morning as a rainbow march makes its way across campus, marking the first event of a weeklong celebration in honor of National Coming Out Day.
The UCSB Queer Student Union (QSU), along with the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD) have collaborated in hosting a weeklong celebration. Kyle Richards, the center’s director, said the week’s goal is to create an atmosphere of pride and visibility for the queer community. This year marks the first time UCSB has expanded the traditionally one-day event to an entire week. National Coming Out Day, celebrated across the country today, is on the anniversary of a 1987 gay rights march in Washington D.C. that totaled over half a million people. Events on campus this week will range from movies to demonstrations to drag parties.
Richards said the event commemorates the battle for fair treatment of queer people.
“It’s a celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and transgender equality and civil rights,” he said.
To begin the festivities, marchers will meet at 11:30 a.m. in front of Campbell Hall to begin their walk to Storke Tower for the National Coming Out Day rally and open mic session. Following the rally, there will be a reception in the Rainbow Lounge in room 3135 of the UCen.
Miguelito Mendoza, co-chair of Associated Students Queer Commission, said he is looking forward to the rally because it has a lot of potential to get people out and involved.
“It will be very loud, very outspoken, very queer,” Mendoza said.
The week of celebration includes a series of films including a Wednesday showing of “Dangerous Lives: Coming Out in the Developing World” at 6 p.m. in Multicultural Center. The film “Gay Pioneers” will be showing in Buchanan Hall at 7 p.m. Thursday evening.
In addition, QSU Co-chair Raymond Meza said the QSU would put three student-decorated doors on display in the Arbor, symbolizing coming out of the closet. The first door will be closed, the second door will be slightly ajar and the third door will be open.
There will also be a celebration Friday in the UCen’s Flying A Room, commemorating all the achievements of the RCSGD since its founding five years ago. Buttons such as, “equal opportunity lover,” “I was a boy… but I got better,” and “Ally” will be sold at many of the events for one dollar apiece as a fundraiser.
The final event of the week is a coming-out party called Coming Out Fierce: A Revolutionary Celebration, sponsored by the QSU. The party will take place Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the Graduate Student Lounge, located on the second floor of the Multicultural Center, and will feature a drag contest as well as a kissing and safer sex booth. The party will be free for those who come in drag, but will cost $2.00 for the traditionally dressed. The winner of the drag contest will receive a safe sex bouquet with items like condoms, dental dams and lubrication. Meza said allies of the queer community are encouraged to come to the party and dance the night away in celebration and support of the queer community.
Meza said the party event is likely to be the most influential because it will put a face on the queer community. He said he would like to see the week of events, along with the party, help expand the base of queer community allies.
“We have invested a lot of time, planning and publicity into it,” Meza said.
While the central theme of the week is pride and visibility for the queer community, Richards said he is concerned with the prejudiced environment in which the queer community must live.
“We operate in an overwhelmingly homophobic environment,” he said.
Mendoza said this discriminatory environment includes UCSB, and that the queer community on campus is treated with indifference at best.
“There are incidents of free speech where queer couples are told derogatory things,” Meza said. “It has improved, but there is still much work to be done.”
Richards said there are also situations where the queer community faces outright fear, as while walking down Del Playa Drive on a Friday or Saturday night holding hands with someone of the same sex.
Mendoza said he wouldn’t feel safe in such situation.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that unless I was fully armed,” he said.
Although there are still areas of friction between the queer and straight communities, Mendoza said he would like to see everyone – regardless of their sexual orientation – at the National Coming Out Day events.
“I would challenge the straight[[-]] identifying community of UCSB to come to at least one of our events with an open mind and realize the commonality that both the queer and straight community share as human beings,” he said.