From swing dancing to marching on the New Haven Green, the newly expanded Coming Out Week at Yale offers students a chance to express their sexuality and join in community solidarity.
Festivities ranging from swing dancing to marching on the New Haven Green will culminate in National Coming Out Day on Saturday. The events, which began Monday, are organized by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Co-operative at Yale. Co-op Coordinator Benjamin Gonzalez ’09 said the celebration, meant to offer students an opportunity to declare openly their sexual or gender identity, was expanded from daylong festivities in all previous years in order to accommodate the increasing number of events proposed by student groups.
On Friday, Yale’s Swing & Choose group, a swing group in which dance partners can be of any gender, will be hosting a dance at Christ Church from 9 p.m. to midnight. The dance will provide a fun, non-alcoholic social environment for both Yale and New Haven community members, said Mary Christensen LAW ’09, co-organizer of the dance.
“When you go to a dance, it’s always a gay dance or straight dance,” she said. “If everybody would do what makes sense from a dance perspective … gender wouldn’t be a salient issue.”
Other events will include a “Rainbow Brunch” on Saturday for LGBT members of the Yale community, as well the “Coming Out Day Bonanza” on Thursday afternoon, when students are invited to walk through a large pink door located on Cross Campus to symbolize the act of coming out of the closet.
The week also coincides with the recent relaunch of Queer Peers, Yale’s peer-counseling organization for LGBTQ students, said Ben Bernard ’11, the group’s co-coordinator.
“It is perfect timing that we are relaunching this resource for the Yale community just when these issues are being forefronted around campus,” he said.
Rachel Schiff ’10, a board member of Sappho, the newly renamed undergraduate organization for lesbians at Yale, said Coming Out Week is important, no matter how many students ultimately decide to come out of the closet over the course of its seven days.
“Even though one should feel comfortable coming out at any point in time, the reality is, that’s not the case,” she said. “If there is a small group of individuals that come out because they feel there is overt solidarity on campus, then we’ve done a good job.”
Still, some students on campus continue to have qualms with the notion of coming out of the closet.
Scott Hillier ’10 said he finds the action of “coming out” problematic, arguing that non-heterosexuals cannot be seen as equals to their straight peers if society pressures them to openly declare their love for members of the same sex.
“The act of walking through a pink door on Old Campus then seems to me more like a spectacle rather than an action that legitimately affirms my sexual identity,” he wrote in an e-mail to the News.
Hillier said fellow openly gay students can act as a resource for their questioning peers.
“While I decided to come out to my friends and family on my own schedule, it is still important to recognize that Coming Out Week is an empowering time for some people,” he wrote.
“This week is not something to belittle,” Hillier added.