PrismND sponsors “Coming Out Closets”
Andrea Vale | Thursday, October 9, 2014
PrismND held its annual “Coming Out Closets” event on Wednesday, Oct. 8, in support of the LGBTQ community. The event, which took place both in front of DeBartolo Hall and on the Fieldhouse Mall, gave students the chance to walk through a doorframe lined with rainbow streamers and “come out of the closet” as whatever they wished, in an attempt to spread a spirit of acceptance of personal identities across campus.
“People will go through the door frames as a metaphor for coming out of the closet, but they’re going to come out as any part of their identity,” vice president of PrismND Lily Crawford said. “They can come out as a business major or an engineer or a band geek or an artist, or whatever they want to come out as. We want to show everybody that the entirety of their identity is valued and they don’t have to keep a part of it hidden if they don’t want to.”
President of PrismND Bryan Ricketts agreed, saying the metaphoric “coming out” is a visible way to show support for people.
“If they want to come out but are unsure that Notre Dame is a safe place, we want to show them that it is a safe place to come out,” Ricketts said.
LGBTQ identity and its place on Notre Dame’s campus has always been something of a shaky subject, according to both Crawford and Ricketts.
Up until “a culture shift within the last five years” the lack of an LGBTQ presence at Notre Dame was “a much bigger issue,” Ricketts said.
“There was a silence on campus. Then people started talking about it, and it turned out that most people on campus are very accepting and loving and it just needed a push to get that out in the open,” Ricketts said.
“There are students who e-mail us before they make a school decision,” Crawford said, referring to LGBTQ-identifying high school students who fear that because Notre Dame is notorious for its staunch Catholic values, it will not be an accepting campus. “We tell them that yes, for a few people here, that stigma is kind of correct and there’s sort of a lack of understanding and an ignorance, but there are people like that at a lot of different places.
“Notre Dame is pretty accepting, a lot of people are really nice about it. There might be a few things that they’re ignorant about, but they’re usually very understanding,” she said.
PrismND began after a 2011 campus visit from Senator Brian Sims, who gave a speech on “how four out of five college students are accepting of LGBTQ individuals, but they only think that one out of three of their peers are,” Crawford said. Prior to Sims’ speech, there were LGBTQ student organizations that were denied club status [at Notre Dame]. But, the “echo” of the Four-to-Five Movement, as Sims referred to his statistics, was a call for a club.
“In the fall of 2012 Father Jenkins called the division of student affairs to do a review of services for LGBTQ individuals, and it was found in that review that there was not enough service and support for LGBTQ students,” Crawford said. “The report suggested to have an organization, and that organization is Prism.”
“Coming Out Closets” was “inherited” from preexisting councils at Notre Dame on gay and lesbian student affairs, and it has occurred before PrismND’s inception two years ago, Crawford said. On Wednesday, crowds of students passed through the rainbow-decorated doorframes in front of DeBartolo Hall and the Stonehenge Fountain, and many took the opportunity to come out of their “closet.”
“I’ve done this for the past few years,” Melanie Sajbel, a senior in Pasquerilla East, said. “You come out as something that you’re proud of, and I’m proud that my brother is gay. I think it’s something that he’d be excited to see because we have a pretty conservative campus and he’s not Catholic.”
Josephine Jackson, a Lewis sophomore, went through her closet for different reasons.
“I went through the closet for my mom,” Jackson said. “She’s bisexual … And my stepmom has been in my life for about five years, so I came out for her because I know that her coming out was very difficult, coming from a very conservative household, it took a lot for her to do that.”
Ricketts and Crawford emphasized the role of “allies” in LGBTQ acceptance on campus throughout the event.
“We have plenty of members who aren’t LGBTQ who just come out to support their friends because that’s something they believe in,” Ricketts said.
“Allies are a big part and they help make this a safer spot,” Crawford added, “Having a lot of allies there shows that you don’t have to feel so alone.”
If safety and acceptance were the goals of “Coming Out Closets,” participating students seemed to feel this was achieved, Crawford said.
Sorin first year Tyrel London said for him, coming out during a public Notre Dame event had a deep significance.
“It means that I don’t have to be afraid anymore,” London said.