The 12th annual “OUTober” – a six-weeklong celebration of Georgetown’s LGBTQ community that kicked off with Coming Out Day in Red Square last Friday — focuses on the theme of personal and political histories of the varied LGBTQ community.
Held in conjunction with LGBTQ History Month, “OUTober” will feature a series of 14 events, including speaker events, panel discussions and theater performances.
The initiative is a joint effort by the LGBTQ Resource Center, GU Pride, GU Queer People of Color and the Tagliabue Initiative for LGBTQ Life. OUTober has also partnered with administrators and clubs including Campus Ministry, the Office of the President and GU College Democrats.
This year’s programming includes a discussion with sociology professor Brian McCabe and Bowdoin College sociology professor Theo Greene about the roles of queer people in shaping neighborhoods and the impact of gentrification on queer people of color.
In addition, the Theater and Performance Studies Programs will perform itsfirst production of the year, “Anon(ymous),” in the Davis Performing Arts Center from Oct. 13 to 15. Anon(ymous), a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey written by Naomi Iizuka, follows the journey of a refugee, Anon, who explores their gender identity.
The performance is student-produced and directed by faculty.
“Coming Out Day,” the first event of “OUTober,” featured a door with a rainbow flag surrounded by chalk drawings and messages of acceptance and declarations of identity to provide a safe space for LGBTQ students to come out.
LGBTQ Resource Center Assistant Director Julian Haas said Coming Out Day is a celebration of inclusivity.
“‘Coming Out Day’ is a really special day for Georgetown’s campus. It’s an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to come together to celebrate all of the people that make up what is special about Georgetown,” Haas said.
“Coming Out Day” also reflects the challenges still facing LGBTQ individuals, according to Haas.
“I think it’s also an opportunity for folks to reflect that there might not always be the conditions or opportunities for people to do that safely and securely, and so it’s a moment for celebration and also a time for reflection on how we can make this an opportunity for more people moving forward,” Haas said.
Yellow shirts with the words “I am” were distributed to encourage visibility of the LGBTQ and LGBTQ ally community on campus. The color of each year’s “I am” shirt follows the sequence of the pride flag, with this year’s yellow shirts preceded by orange last year and red in 2014.
GU Pride Co-President Grace Smith (COL ’18) said the shirts not only help raise awareness on campus but also represent the progress the LGBTQ movement has made in recent years.
“It’s nice because it’s also a visual representation of the kind of progress we make on this kind of journey, so I like that a lot,” Smith said. “The shirts are just a way for people to be empowered but also a way to spread visibility about the day because we have tons of people wearing it throughout the day.”
Georgetown has been criticized by some in the Catholic community for promoting LGBTQ initiatives while being a Jesuit university. The Cardinal Newman Society criticized Georgetown in an article last week entitled “Coming Out Day Still Celebrated at Catholic Colleges,” arguing that it is improper for Georgetown to support “OUTober” as same-sex sexual activity is against Catholic teachings.
GU Pride Co-President Ida Dhanuka (COL ’17) said Coming Out Day — and supporting LGBTQ individuals — is consistent with Georgetown’s values as a Jesuit university.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the Cardinal Newman Society would disagree, and that they would not want to give space to the breadth of ways that Catholicism is practiced, as well as to a diversity of students who come to Georgetown,” Dhanuka said. “Especially Jesuit values — I think that’s really compatible with wanting to have an inclusive campus that gives space to LGBTQ folks.”
Planning for the month of programming began as early as the summer and involved both the LGBTQ Resource Center and various student groups, according to student staff member Jose Ramos (MSB ’19).
Other events include a panel about LGBTQ life in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18 and an Open Mic night Oct. 24.
Ramos said the student-led organization of the month reflects students’ broader commitment to LGBTQ issues.
“We have to remember that students were the ones who wanted this; they were the ones who, at the beginning, advocated for Georgetown being more inclusive to students from the LGBTQ community,” Ramos said.
Dhanuka said “OUTober” is as important for the greater Georgetown community as it is for LGBTQ students.
“I think as important as it is to have spaces that are for LGBTQ folks, I also do think it is important for people who don’t identify as LGBTQ to go out of their way to get a sense of what other people are going through and how they’re living their lives. Because these are your friends, these are your community members, your roommates and team members.”