Students from the St. Thomas Allies club gave away T-shirts outside the Anderson Student Center Thursday in celebration of National Coming Out Day.
National Coming Out Day, which takes place on Oct. 11, is a day for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to come out to friends and family. The T-shirts, which say “Straight up gay,” are meant to help students celebrate their identities.
Senior Danielle Tschida, UST Allies president, said she hopes National Coming Out Day will encourage acceptance among the student body.
“Hopefully this will create a more aware and inclusive space on campus,” Tschida said.
Cara Anthony, UST Allies faculty adviser, said National Coming Out Day means different things for everyone.
“If we look at some of the reasons why people are supporting it, people are saying things like, ‘I’m proud to be who I am,’” Anthony said. “There’s a lot of reasons to support National Coming Out Day.”
Senior Jordan Graf and his partner, senior Dalton Neu, said they came out as a couple more than two years ago, and are still involved in the process. Graf said being openly gay on a Catholic campus can be challenging as well as rewarding.
“It was difficult, because on a Catholic campus, especially surrounding the marriage amendment … there was more controversy around it,” Graf, a former seminarian, said. “There’s not an openness; the climate on campus is not a healthy one for gay students.”
On Thursday, Ed Burns, chairman of the Committee to Restore St. Thomas University to the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul, which is not affiliated with the university, handed out pamphlets explaining what he calls, “the homosexual problem at St. Thomas.” The 10-page pamphlet claims that St. Thomas is too accepting of LGBT students.
“I believe that the teachings of the Church should be followed (at St. Thomas),” Burns, who called homosexuality a “disorder,” said.
But Neu, also a former seminarian, said he does not believe homosexuality is incompatible with Catholic teaching.
“(When we came out) a lot of people had questions regarding how we were reconciling our actions with our religious and theological backgrounds,” Neu said. “I always kept coming back to the whole idea of recognizing love where it’s found. To me, a God of contradictions doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Junior Scott Windey said he doesn’t support National Coming Out Day for theological and secular reasons.
“I believe that marriage is and ought to be defined as between one man and one woman,” Windey said. “I do not think it is right to force the general population to accept something as right or good.”
Freshman Shannon Twiss said she is participating in National Coming Out Day to support people she knows who are LGBT.
“Coming out is something many of my friends have experienced,” Twiss said. “It’s kind of a challenge for some people so we’re trying to up visibility for allies and for LGBT*Q students on campus.”
Graf said it’s important to feel safe when coming out.
“For me (coming out) is not about flinging open closet doors and coming out in a tutu,” he said. “It’s a day where kids can be courageous, and they can trust that the people wearing the T-shirts are there to love them. It’s a day to be very brave.”
Grace Pastoor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.