Coming Out Week kicks off with round table

Elizabeth Spearman, Reporter

In honor of Coming Out Week, one of the events AACC held was a roundtable discussion on Tuesday titled “We need You: Why Allies Are Important to LGBT People” led by Gene Kelly, a professor visiting from Marywood University.

Even though attendance only consisted of six people that did not stop the discussion from being any short of diverse. Starting off with going around the room, asking what everyone wanted to get from the panel. Lynne Edwards, coordinator of AACC’s Rainbow Network, said that she wants to learn more about the community and what people think.

Dr. Richard Otten, coordinator of coming out week, said he wants to learn how to be an ally without making it all about himself and how he can use his ally hood for good. Which instantly launched into the discussion about oppression vs. privilege within the LGBT community and today’s world as well. Dr. Kelly using himself as a prime example, as being a white male in the LGBT community.

“I came out in 1999, a junior in college, but it took me about five or six years, to realize that I was white,” said Gene Kelly. Which he then on went to explain how even though he gets bashed for being an openly out gay man, he doesn’t get as much heat if he was a person of color or a woman.

After saying that statement, he explained that our role as allies is to step up to the plate when heterosexuals are not around and then asked people to share when there was a time when we had to go against the crowd and point out something that is not okay. That caused Shaquille Worell, a second year communications major, to tell a story about how he defended a rapper that was wearing a dress on one his covers and explain to his friends, that just because the rapper was wearing a dress, does not mean he is gay. He claimed that it is not right to assume his sexually solely based on what he chooses to wear.

Dr. Otten then went on to say, “Allies are afraid of something because they don’t want to say something wrong.” He said it is still important to speak out because the LBGT community is still being oppressed to this day. That caused Edwards toad, “Gay people should protect other gay people, not only allies.”

Even though the discussion touched mainly on oppression and privilege and allies can help within the community, there were other issues risen. Such as terms like homo-normativity, demi-sexual, polyamory and how in most states, people can still be fired for their sexual orientation. These things were discussed briefly but was also noted that the more people understand these new terms, more help can be provided.

Throughout the panel, there was mention of the Rainbow Network. Which is a community of admins and faculty who are actively for LGBT equality on campus. They are all trained in LGBT rights and learn about the community.

“Even though there has been two events for coming out week so far, I think that it will be a good year, especially with the topics that we have coming up.” Dr. Otten said after the event had ended.

Dr. Gene Kelly, will be doing another talk entitled “More than Just Bathrooms: Dispelling Myths about Trans Folks” on Wednesday as part of Coming Out Week.