In celebration of National Coming Out Day 2012 and to officially unveil this year’s OUTlist, the Portland State University (PSU) Queer Resource Center along with many sponsors and community partners held a festival today in the park blocks on the downtown campus of PSU. Along with a Queer Resource Center information table, this year’s event featured Portland Black Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, PSU’s Women’s Resource Center, Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center, Metropolitan Community Church, and PSU’s Multicultural Center among several other community and University partners. Guests were treated to free pizza from Hot Lips, the musical stylings of DJ Sabby Tabby and an emotional and celebratory speak out featuring the coming out stories of various students and staff.
One of these speakers was Monty Herron, 40, who recalled the start to his activism “during the times of Lon Maybon and the OCA’s brief, unfortunate stint.” At the tender age of 17, Herron found himself at a rally in Pioneer Square, replete with hecklers and every major news outlet. On stage to warm people up, he was filmed and his Grandmother in Salem ended up seeing him on the 5 o’clock news broadcast chanting “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” Of course, she immediately called Herron’s father and said, “Daryl, you must catch the 11 o’clock news, I think your son’s a gay.”
At 11:20 that night, he got a telephone call from his dad who was steaming and burned. “Is it true?” he fumed. “There you were in all your glory!”
“Yep, I’m gay, dad, if you couldn’t already deduce that,” Herron confessed.
Unfortunately, this revelation was the start to “about a 10-year period of iciness between his island and my island,” Herron said.
The story has a happy ending, though, because as Herron grew up and began experiencing long term relationships, “the same kinds of relationships that other people enjoy,” his dad approached him one Christmas and said, “I just want you to know my whole attitude about this has completely changed. I now view your boyfriends as a bonus son.”
The concept is not new; the OUTlist dates back to the early 90’s when a group of USC students who were committed to building a comfortable environment for all Trojans “published A University United to End Homophobia that highlighted a list of programming and events for the 1989-1990 academic school year and also included a list of 50 university students, staff and faculty members” who were willing to be identified as supportive of this effort.
Since that time it has grown exponentially and is now a staple of National Coming Out Day events at Universities around the nation. Cat McGraw, director of PSU’s Queer Resource Center brought the OUTlist to the University in 2010. This year more than 1200 Vikings signed the list. The 1200 represents a three-fold increase from the first year it started.
Attendees of the event numbered in the hundreds and showed up for a variety of reasons. Shaila Zigdon, a member of Metropolitan Community Church, came to the event to table for MCC Portland and to share her message of hope in the face of declarations denying her dual identity as both a Christian and a Lesbian.
“When my wife Eli and I lived in Cambridge [Massachusetts], there wasn’t an MCC in town,” she explained, “but we’d go onto the website and it was comforting to know that there was an MCC somewhere out there. I want to share the message with others whom it might comfort.”
Similarly, Khalil who came to the event to represent the Portland chapter of Black PFLAG shared, “We’re here because we feel it’s really important to support our youth and National Coming Out Day. [Coming Out Day is] not just for folks who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer to feel the support they need to come out, but to also bring that awareness that people still have a lot of challenges around coming out, especially in communities of color where a lot of times there’s that double discrimination of being someone that identifies as LGBTQ and someone that is a person of color.”
Black PFLAG, which partnered with the Urban League of Portland, will be releasing its groundbreaking report on research they conducted that looks at the experiences of black LGBTQ Oregonians at a program this evening at June Key Delta House.
The 2012 OUTlist will appear on a vinyl poster in the Queer Resource Center on the fourth floor of the Smith Memorial Student Union. The list will also appear during events throughout National Coming Out Week, which is celebrated on the Portland State campus throughout the month of October.
For a list of Queer Resource Center programs and resources, visit www.pdx.edu/queer.