On Being Yourself

Students take part in Out on Britton

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

October is LGBTQ History Month, a time to celebrate the achievements of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) community and to reaffirm Dickinsonians’ commitment to social justice, full inclusion and diversity. Special events, displays and programs highlighting the LGBTQ community's history, triumphs and challenges are on tap.

The month began with training sessions and the launch of two educational exhibits. Dickinson, for the second year, has partnered with The Equality Forum to support the 31 in 31 program, which promotes distinguished members of the worldwide LGBTQ community—one for each day of the month—via Facebook and also through a campuswide display hosted by the Office of LGBTQ Services.

History Comes Out, presented jointly by the Dickinson College Archives & Special Collections and the LGBT Center of Central Pennsylvania, showcases the history of the LGBTQ movement in Central Pennsylvania, and visitors can view it on the first floor of the Waidner-Spahr Library through Oct. 31. Curator Mana Shaw ’14, a women’s & gender-studies major, combed through boxes of publications and memorabilia to select eye-catching items that best represented the breadth and spirit of the local LGBT-history movement. 

“What I’ve come to understand is that we have a long history here,” she said. “It’s great to celebrate that history and see where we’ve come from—and where we are today.”

The college celebrated National Coming Out Week (Oct. 7-11) with a Healthy Masculinity Event Teach-In, a performance by poet and storyteller Katie Wirsling, an (Inter)National Coming Out Day celebration, and the publication of the second-annual Dickinson Coming Out Ally Support List, which garnered more than 500 pledges of support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and ally communities (LGBTQIA). At Out on Britton, Dickinsonians connected with representatives from related on- and off-campus organizations supporting the LGBTQ community. They also were invited to share their perspectives on coming out and to take part in the “I am __” T-shirt event so they could wear their identities with pride.

Micah Corso-Phinney ’16 took that concept a step further when he painted a rainbow—a symbol of LGBTQ pride—across his chest. He even got up two hours earlier that morning so he could be sure to be painted and ready before his 8:30 a.m. class. “It’s not every day you get to make this kind of a statement,” he said with a laugh. “This is an important week for the LGBTQ community—it’s a chance to showcase our purpose and let students know how they can get involved.”

Corso-Phinney added that the campus—like the region and nation—has made great strides in recent years, but there is always more to be done. “There are still students out there who are struggling with the decision to come out, and we want to let them know that it’s OK,” he said. “We want them to know that Dickinson is a safe place where you can be yourself.”

Published Oct. 8, 2013