Why National Coming Out Day needs to be rebranded
And what it’s like being queer at UC Berkeley
Welcome to October 11th, AKA National Coming Out Day—or, as our campus has rebranded it, Queer and/or Trans Awareness Day.
Honestly, I’m at a point where I don’t usually bother to worry about coming out to people—I’m pretty conscious about performing queerness in a visible way, appearance-wise. I didn’t get a bright red undercut and a ton of flannel because I’m bisexual—but it does help people realize I’m not straight. Between that and my involvement in the campus LGBTQ community, I usually just assume people realize.
It’s worth taking a moment on National Coming Out Day to say, though, that such realizations are definitely not always the case. Heterocisnormativity is everywhere, my friends. Even in the heads of LGBTQ people, as we all just try and untangle ourselves from it.
And heterocisnormativity is also, definitely, at Cal.
My experience can only ever be my experience—there are as many ways to live through being queer at Berkeley as there are queer people here. Also, I’m relatively privileged, and that’s something that’s absolutely reflected in my experience.
For example, it means that unlike a friend of mine, I wasn’t personally affected when a classmate implied that non-binary people use they pronouns because they have split personality disorder.
(Not that DPD should be stigmatized, but wow, so many levels of That’s Not How Those Things Work.)
Here’s what being queer at Berkeley is for me:
Having to listen to professors and academics who you respect immensely, who also don’t believe that you exist.
Having to watch conservative and Christian friends grimace when my sexuality is brought up, even though they “hate the sin, not the sinner.”
Having to deal with being catcalled or harassed for looking “like a dyke,” or not looking feminine enough.
Having to deal with the fact that no one realizes there are queer identities besides lesbian and gay.
Having to make a mental calculation on what you should say every time someone asks a question about a part of your life that involves queerness.
Knowing that several sororities have rush manuals banning stereotypical markers or queerness – pixie cuts and dyed hair – and knowing that several of them unofficially don’t accept lesbians. Knowing a lot of frats play gay chicken while joking about all the “fags.”
Dealing with the straight liberation movement chalk every single day and having to remove it ourselves, while campus pro-LGBT chalking is professional removed by the university.
The Gender Equity Resource Center decided to celebrate Queer and/or Trans Awareness Day today, not National Coming Out Day – they were tabling on MLK, and passing out buttons and chalk to write queer-affirming messages.
Out of a desire for privacy, none of the representatives there wanted to be named, but they told me that they changed the name to reflect that National Coming Out Day only fits with some people’s narratives. Some people don’t want to come out. And a lot of people can’t come out, because they’d be at risk with roommates, with their friends, with their professors, with their families.
So in the spirit of Queer and/or Trans Awareness Day, let’s be aware of how much more we have to fight for..
Currently, there’s an ongoing series of protests and negotiations by the Queer Alliance Resource Center and the Bridges Multicultural Resource Center, both of whom went from significant amounts of space in the old Eshleman (in our case, almost a third of the floor), to two tiny closets in the basement. With mice. And in the case of QARC, a maximum capacity that is smaller than the number of queer organizations that we have on campus. (Full disclosure: I’ve taken an active part in this organizing.)
We’re currently in the middle of the ten day grace period that QARC and Bridges have given the administration to meet their demands, which include the whole 5th floor of Eshleman being reallocated to QARC, and the Cal Student Store—which has completely failed to make a profit—being reallocated to Bridges.
QARC and Bridges presented their demands to the ASUC and the administration on October 5th, and have set their deadline as October 15th.
Happy Queer and/or Trans Awareness Day.