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GU Pride set up a coming-out” door in Red Square on Wednesday to publicize its annual Coming-Out Week events, which raise awareness about LGBTQ issues.

As students walked through the “coming out” door set up in Red Square on Wednesday, the sight of the Georgetown campus may still have seemed the same as last year. However, for some, crossing this threshold also marked this past year’s profound changes in the LGBTQ community on campus.

This week, GU Pride sponsored its annual Coming Out Week in an effort to stimulate discussion of LGBTQ life from various perspectives and promote acceptance of one’s identity, regardless of sexual orientation.

Coming Out Week is celebrated at universities across the country n recognition of the LGBTQ community.

Co-presidents Jack Harrison (SFS ’09) and Olivia Chitayat (COL ’10) led the effort by organizing events addressing certain LGBTQ experiences that are often overlooked.

“Within the community, there is so much diversity,” Chitayat said. “LGBTQIA is just one identity of many, and this week we were trying to explore that identity in the context of other identities.”

The shape and direction of GU Pride and the LGBTQ community on campus has, however, been greatly transformed in just the past year, Chitayat noted.

“We did not expect to eradicate all prejudice on campus, but we do feel that the university supports the community more and has made that support visible,” Chitayat said. “That does change GU Pride’s focus because we work more on a community level – talking to people, working with other groups and promoting discussion and respect on campus.”

After two alleged hate crimes last fall, university administrators worked with GU Pride to establish the LGBTQ Resource Center, which provides support and education for the LGBTQ community at Georgetown.

“We have been here just since August, and it is clear to me that there is a lot of support and buy-in from the larger campus community on the need for the work of the center,” said Sivagami Subbaraman, director of the LGBTQ Center.

According to Subbaraman, the center has established peer-facilitated discussion and mentoring groups, created a space for other members of the Georgetown community, including graduate students and faculty, and begun to open the dialogue between the center and university chaplains-in-residence and Campus Ministry officials.

“The message that needs to go out is that LGBTQ people are part of all other communities – around race, ethnicity, religious belief and nationality; we are not a monolithic community, but are in fact several communities,” Subbaraman said.

The resource center has also been working closely with GU Pride by hosting diversity workshops and other events including “Expressions of a Better Georgetown” and “Queer Around the World,” an examination of the LGBTQ experience while studying abroad.

“We still advocate and are political, but the focus is slightly different because of the visible university support that the community now has,” Chitayat said.

On Monday evening, Georgetown University College Republicans teamed up with GU Pride to host “Coming Out as a Republican,” a discussion about what it means to be LGBTQ in a Republican community. Jimmy LaSalvia, director of programs and policy for Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay and lesbian Republican organization, came to speak and answer questions.

The next evening, GU Pride organized a discussion on the theme of coming out as a woman of color, which included a group of panelists coming from various backgrounds who spoke about their experiences at Georgetown as well as in their hometowns.

“I am glad that there has been an emphasis on minorities within the community, highlighting the diversity that the LGBTQ community encompasses – different races, different backgrounds, different sexual orientations, different political views, different talents – yet, despite these differences, the entire community works towards a commonality,” said Jen Nguyen (COL ’09), a member of the Women of Color panel.

The club also had a symbolic door that students could walk through in Red Square, handed out T-shirts, hosted a kiss-in, held an open mic in Uncommon Grounds and will have a Masquerade Ball on Saturday night. GU Pride co-sponsored last night’s Urban Fare and will partner with HOPE’s Friday Food Outing today.

“I think the events, coupled with the new resource center and its leadership, have really started to shatter the pervasive notion that the queer community consists of only the white, gay men,” Nguyen said.

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