Coming Out Week, one of the Diversity Celebrations Committee's annual events, is the result of hard work by many organizations, including the Gender and Sexuality Center and GLOW! (Gay, Lesbian or Whatever!). Students and faculty have collaborated to schedule various speakers and groups on campus.
The week began with a panel discussion titled "Coming Out at Olaf," in which six St. Olaf students shared their experiences with coming out in a college setting.
Stories ranged from anecdotes about miscommunication to advice for other students at St. Olaf. "Coming out isn't just a one day thing," said Seth Bresky '10, co-leader of GLOW! and member of the Gender and Sexuality Center. "It's a very long process of accepting yourself and understanding yourself."
"It is these conversations between students and within the wider Olaf community that are one of the most important successes of Coming Out Week," said Heidi Morse '08, member of the Gender and Sexuality Center.
Panel member Sean Miyamoto '08 agreed. "It's a hard process, and you have to put yourself out there," he said. "Look at the situation and judge it for yourself. If you think it's right, then it probably is."
Bresky emphasized the importance of having a safe community in which people feel comfortable discussing issues of sexuality. "Community plays a big part," he said. "Hopefully having the [Gender and Sexuality Center] house will encourage people to see St. Olaf as a place that is visibly accepting."
Organizers of the event have planned at least one coming out event per day this week. Supporters of Coming Out Week were encouraged to wear the colors of the rainbow, on Tuesday.
The Department of Social Work and Family Studies sponsored a Transgender speaker on Wednesday evening in Trollhaugen, and later that night the Lion's Pause hosted eclectic Minneapolis band ZibraZibra! whose style has been described as German electro-pop.
SOLGEN (St. Olaf Lesbian and Gay Employee Network) leader and Norwegian professor Nancy Aarsvold spoke in chapel on Thursday, followed by a coming out celebration in the Buntrock Crossroads.
On Friday at 10 a.m., a memorial vigil will take place under the wind chimes in honor of Matthew Shephard, a victim of a hate crime that took place 9 years ago.
Bresky was impressed with the number of people involved in organizing the week's events. "We have a lot more people involved in Coming Out Week this year and a lot more people working on events," he said. "The Gender and Sexuality Center has helped increase membership because it's a comfortable place to meet."
The events are open to everyone on campus. "We want to emphasize that coming out isn't just for gay people, but for straight people and allies coming out too," Bresky said. "We focus more on people's ability to just express themselves It's about understanding yourself and your own body and making it publicly known."