Monday, October 12, 2009

National Coming Out Day Aboard the MV Explorer

Yesterday was National Coming Out Day 2009, a day set aside to support and celebrate members of the LGBT community. Semester at Sea remains vigilant about not only meeting students needs in the classroom, but making sure they feel accepted and supported within the Semester at Sea community as well. So in celebration of National Coming Out Day a screening of the movie "Milk" was shown in the Union, along with milk and cookies, with a discussion taking place directly afterwards.

"Milk" is film that hit theater's last year, about Harvey Milk from his 40th birthday until his death. Milk leaves New York City for San Francisco and opens a camera shop, but his life quickly becomes focused on gay activism in the San Fracisco Castro district. He realizes that he can be more effective in getting the issues that face the LGBT community heard as a politician. He uses the gay community's buying power to establish political alliances, and after several failed attempts, is elected to public office is 1977, becoming the first openly gay man to hold a public office in the United States.
After the movie, the students vented about their personal experiences coming out, or having a friend or family member come out to them. They talked about the importance of encouraging people to live their lives openly, but understanding why it is difficult for people to take that step.
They also tackled the subject of religion and homosexuality, saying that it is incorrect to paint religion as an enemy of gay people. By trying to cast varying opinions as “bad” or “good,” people are alienated and a true national discussion concerning gay rights will not be fruitful. The students also took this time to reflect of prejudice and the fear of the unknown that causes it, and how this was illustrated in the movie.
Several students commented on their experiences as members of the LGBT community on a SAS voyage. One student said she grew up in a very liberal town, and she was concerned with how she would be received by students from areas of the country that trend more conservative. She said her experience thus far has been very positive, and she feels, “accepted not tolerated.”
The discussion came to a close on what students can do to aid progress. They suggested making sure they are supportive of people they know who decide to come out, and help provide them with a sense of community. They also discussed challenging their peers about the language they use to help reduce the use of derogatory names and phrases.
SAS Dean of Students Byron Howlett said, “Maybe we can’t get out and speak as loud as Harvey Milk did, but maybe we can whisper, and those whispers will come together as one unified voice.”

1 comment:

  1. I think it's incredible that SAS honored and celebrated National Coming Out Day for its students. Way to go, and way to take advantage of SAS's platform for positive learning in a way that doesn't just have to do wiht international experiences. You rock.