This week Georgetown University’s LGBTQ Resource Center kicked off a monthlong schedule of virtual events celebrating Georgetown’s LGBTQ community.
OUTober celebrations began Oct. 7 with a group discussion about family, faith and sexuality. The month’s events, which coincide with LGBTQ history month, include panel discussions, lectures and other programming dedicated to amplifying LGBTQ voices at Georgetown.
The online programming aims to strengthen student bonds within Georgetown’s LGBTQ community, according to Shiva Subbaraman, the executive director of the LGBTQ Center and the Women’s Center on campus.
“The coming together of all of who we are and who we can be, that is very powerful for the LGBTQ community, because oftentimes, you know, this piece of our identity can be in conflict with the rest of the identities and so to provide a space, to provide opportunities and places where we can be whole people is really important,” Subbarman said in an interview with The Hoya.
OUTober began in 2013 as Coming Out Week. Like in past years, OUTober 2020 will celebrate International Pronouns Day and host a Mass of Belonging alongside Catholic Ministry. Faculty and administrators plan to host discussions about the gay community in Nazi Germany and intersectional family life, among other topics. On Oct. 9, organizers are set to hold a virtual Coming Out Day. This year’s Coming Out Day will look different than in past semesters, when students gathered at Red Square and processed through a decorated closet door amidst a crowd of cheering onlookers.
Converting OUTober programming online may make it harder for LGBTQ people to build relationships with each other, according to Subbaraman.
“I think the biggest loss I’m feeling is that ability to gather in Red Square,” Subbaraman said. “There is something about, especially for gay, LGBTQ people, our ability to see each other in person and that sort of visceral sense of connection is very, very important, I think, you know, because we, unlike other identities, we can’t tell who each other is, right? Like we can’t recognize each other until we sort of get together.”
Despite these setbacks, the event organizers feel confident students will still be able to commemorate LGBTQ history and pride in a virtual setting.
Haley Wierzbicki (COL ’21), a student staff member at the LGBTQ Research Center, said she has been attending more than ever before because the events are online.
“I think people who are maybe totally not sure what OUTober is, or who we at the center, or other groups can come in to zoom and if they want to turn off the camera and just be there from a distance they can do that,” Wierzbicki said.
The LGBTQ Resource Center teamed up with the GU pride, GU Queer People of Color and the Tagliabue Iniative for LGBTQ life to arrange the events. Many of this year’s events, including Coming Out Day, will be held asynchronously, which will allow students to participate when they are available.
Nikash Harapanahalli (COL ’24), a student involved with GU Pride, feels OUTober’s virtual format makes it more accessible to students, especially those who may be on the fence about attending.
“I feel safer and more comfortable having all these resources and the fact that I can just easily access them with a click of a finger,” Harapanahalli said in a phone interview with The Hoya.
The event organizers encourage anyone interested to attend as many or as few events as they are comfortable with. OUTober 2020 may prove to be especially important for first-year students who are living at home, Amena Johnson, Assistant Director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, added.
“I imagine that lots of students didn’t expect to be at home — I didn’t expect to be at home. Some freshmen may have been waiting to go to college to come out,” Johnson said in an interview with The Hoya. “And they may be struggling with that. So I think that [OUTober 2020] is definitely something that they should get involved with.”