GUTS (the Gay Union of Trenton State) and other members of the campus community celebrated National Coming Out Day last Saturday.
Approximately 20 members of GUTS set up tables outside the Travers/Wolfe Halls with pizza, music, pamphlets and decorations as part of the College’s Community Fest events. GUTS members also “chalked” the campus sidewalks Thursday night with quotes, drawings and statistics about being gay and National Coming Out Day.
Keiko Suwa, president of GUTS, considered the turnout very successful.
“People are a little intimidated to stop by,” Suwa said. “They see the pizza, then they see the rainbow (tablecloth) and think ‘oh, its gay pizza,'” she said jokingly.
Families and students stopped at the tables to talk and eat or look at brochures. “We got a lot of visibility today, which is good,” Suwa said.
National Coming Out Day was founded by two gay rights activists in 1988. This was the first anniversary of the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which took place on Oct. 11, 1987.
An anonymous member of GUTS said this day is important to gays and lesbians, but is also important to bisexuals, transgendered people and those who are “bi-curious, bi-attracted, bi-affectionate and I don’t know how many more sexual orientations.”
Dawn Alamia, co-vice president of GUTS, said, “I always knew I was different, but I was always told it was OK to be gay.” Others agreed that they usually saw signs early in life that they might be gay.
Jeremy Grey, a sophomore psychology major, secretary of GUTS, said that the hardest part is admitting to yourself that you are gay, “which is a major first step.” Grey recalled many unfinished sentences in his high school notebooks that read “I think I might be . ”
Grey believes that being gay is not a stigma at the College. “New Jersey is a very liberal state, and that attitude is reflected in the students of TCNJ,” Grey said.
Grey is one of the two facilitators of The Haven, an e-mail-based support group for students questioning their sexuality. The Haven also provides monthly forums for the discussion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered issues.
Other students listed numerous disadvantages of being gay. “The (gay) community is harassed and ostracized constantly,” Lenny Irgang, senior communication studies major, said. “We are part of a minority. That puts enormous burdens on the (gay) community.”
Grey spoke of disadvantages of having to hide his personal life from his family and some friends.
“It’s hard to have to deal with things completely in private,” he said. Grey also had to lie to his parents when he went out, which created a growing distance between himself and his family.
Another anonymous member of GUTS criticized the law against same-sex marriages. He also thinks it is unfair that he is afraid to hold hands with another man and to go to parties where the majority of people are “ignorant” heterosexuals.
“I fear being attacked for who I am,” he said. “No one should have to live like that.”
The anonymous student also said that a common misconception is that homosexuality is a choice. “I would never choose a life with so much difficulty involved,” he said.
Alamia agrees that sexuality is not a choice. “But,” she said, “I don’t see it as so bad that no one would want to choose it. You can’t let bigots run your life.”
Irgang is glad that the College provides an organization like GUTS. “Knowing that they are there is comforting. It makes me feel like I’m not alone,” he said.
Several members of GUTS offered advice to those who are considering coming out. Alamia said the first step is to “find someone you can trust and talk to.”
Ryan English, junior women’s and gender studies major and co-vice president of GUTS, suggested starting with people you trust, then branching out from there. English also suggested adopting an honesty policy. If you are not ready to tell people you are gay, just be honest with them if they question you about it. “Never be afraid to be honest,” English said.