BY: ALEXIS ARNOLD
Wednesday is National Coming Out Day, the annual day of awareness that celebrates coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ). American University's student LGBTQ+ organization, formerly known as Queers & Allies, has been renamed PRIDE (People Respecting Individual Diversity Everywhere), and they will be hosting this year's Coming Out Week.
The week-long event starts on Monday will feature a series of programs to celebrate coming out and equality for the LGBTQ+ community. The Blackprint spoke with PRIDE Executive Director Jeffrey Guzman to learn more about what's coming up.
The Blackprint: So what is PRIDE and what do you do?
Jeffrey Guzman: PRIDE is the main student [organization] on campus for LGBTQ+ students. Our mission is based on four values: advocacy, community, education and networking. In terms of advocacy, we partner up with non-profits around D.C. to help with fundraisers, drives and physical community service. We also advocate for issues affecting students on campus, such as bathrooms, housing, etc. We build community through events, parties and a newly launched Big-Little Mentorship Program. PRIDE networks with other D.C. schools' LGBTQ+ [organizations], and we bring speakers, alumni and professionals to campus. Finally, we also focus on educational training for allies, which means people who don't identify as LGBTQ+ can join as well.
BP: What is Coming Out Week?
JG: National Coming Out Day is Oct. 11 and we want to have a series of events focused around that day. We applaud those who do "come out," and want to be able to celebrate them. However, we also want to have a serious dialogue about what "coming out" even means. There's this pressure to come out in this grand and loud way, but that's not necessary to be validated as someone who is LGBTQ+. It also isn't safe for everyone.
BP: What which event are you most excited for?
JG: I'm most excited for The Closet Narrative because it's new, as well as the Coming Out Monologues. I think these two really allow people to get to know each other better, and hearing people's stories is what I most enjoy.
BP: Has PRIDE hosted Coming Out Week events before?
JG: PRIDE has hosted Coming Out on the Quad before and, in collaboration with [the Center for Diversity and Inclusion], has hosted the Coming Out Monologues. In the first event, we have this big rainbow door on the quad that people come out of, and the latter event is an open mic for people to share their stories.
BP: Why is it important to host events like this? What impact does it have?
JG: The main reason we have these events is to make people visible. As much as this campus is very queer, a majority of the people here are straight, and so it's easy to brush LGBTQ+ students aside and forget about us at times. So Coming Out On the Quad is a way to say, â€˜We're here! We're queer!' The [Coming Out] Monologues are meant to create community within the LGBTQ+ population here, and let individuals know they're not alone in their struggles with coming out and understanding their identity.
The Closet Narrative was important for us to host because we want students who don't want to "come out" in such a public way to have a space. Also, we think it's important that people understand "the closet" is a myth. In reality, it's just about who you're willing to share your private romantic and sexual life with. There is no closet you need to come out of. Also, just because you come out once does not mean you're done. You keep "coming out" to people all your life.
If you would like to find out more information about Coming Out Week and AU PRIDE, check out their Facebook or Instagram pages. You can also sign up for their weekly emails by sending them a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.