NU’s Coming Out Day takes on new meaning

Marcy Miranda

Ellen Bird, a Weinberg senior, is coming out today – as an Ashlee Simpson fan.

Weinberg sophomore Kelsey Pacha is coming out as a lover of “Star Wars.”

While both are members of LGBT advocacy group Rainbow Alliance executive board, each plans to celebrate National Coming Out Day by presenting sides of themselves that others might not normally see.

“It’s about being who you are, and encouraging people to come out as allies (to the gay and lesbian community),” said Bird, Rainbow Alliance president.

National Coming Out Day was created in 1987 by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and is celebrated annually by thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, according to the group’s Web site.

Rainbow Alliance plans to celebrate National Coming Out Day at Northwestern by handing out identification tags at The Rock and at the Technological Institute asking students to come out with one of their secrets, not necessarily their sexuality.

“You can come out as a Republican in a room of Democrats,” said Pacha, Rainbow Alliance’s outreach and education chairwoman. “We’re trying to make it more inclusive and not just about being gay, lesbian or bisexual.”

Weinberg freshman Ian Epstein, who was active in his high school’s gay-support group, said he likes the way Rainbow Alliance is celebrating National Coming Out Day.

“It’s a great idea that you should come out as other things that aren’t related to your sexuality,” Epstein said. “The goal is to admit to other people your deeper and darker secrets.”

Bird said Rainbow Alliance has a diverse membership who have various religious, political and sexual identifications.

“We all require different things as different people,” Bird said. “Coming Out Day is about being comfortable with who you are.”

Group members painted The Rock on Monday in rainbow colors to increase visibility for National Coming Out Day and for the efforts the group has made to include a wider variety of students.

On Oct. 18, Rainbow Alliance will co-host a speaker who represents various identities a person can cope with. Conscious, an author, producer and talk-show host, will speak about the adversity she has faced as an HIV-positive black lesbian. She will be speaking a week after National Coming Out Day because there are several speakers already coming to campus this week, including Kenneth Starr tonight and Ralph Nader on Friday.

Conscious endured abuse and poverty and came out sexually by writing a novel. She has been involved in a wide spectrum of activities, from serving as a bodyguard for rapper Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg to almost playing professional basketball, Bird said.

“She has so many identities to come out as,” Bird said.

Rainbow Alliance’s mission, according to Bird, is to provide gay, lesbian and bisexual students with a support group, which might include straight students who can be allies to members of the gay community.

“Sometimes to know that there are people who care is comforting when you’re in the closet,” she said.

Reach Marcy Miranda at [email protected]