By: Conor Coughlin, Class of 2019
Last week (from October 8th through 12th), we celebrated Booth Ally Week on campus. The week, sponsored by OUTreach, AAMBAA, CWiB, HABSA, and Common Chromosome, serves as an opportunity for Booth students to deepen their understanding of the experiences of others and encourages them to be out and visible as allies on campus and beyond.
Allyship can take many forms, but it is an idea that extends across movements for equal rights. Allyship involves someone who does not identify as part of a marginalized community who commits to using their position in society to fight alongside and for those communities in various ways (e.g., for political change, social change, personal support).
Discussions surrounding allyship on campus started well in advance of the week’s events. Planning offered an opportunity for club leaders from Booth’s many diversity and special interest student groups to get together to discuss programming as well as our goals for the year more broadly and the ways in which we can support each other. I am looking forward to continuing to work with this bunch throughout the school year and am very glad we had the chance to collaborate very early in the year.
But let’s talk a bit about the events. The week comprised a coming out stories lunch on Wednesday, coffee and donuts in the winter garden on Thursday, and a “thoughts on tap” discussion later that afternoon. (I had perfect attendance....) I would have to say the highlight for me was the annual coming out stories lunch, so let me share a bit about that with you all for those who missed it. The event featured a panel of four brave LGBTQ students who shared their own personal experiences with “coming out,” facilitated by two thoughtful LEAD facilitators and friends. The stories were diverse but universally powerful. We heard about years-long personal struggles and denials; we heard about life-altering discussions with friends and family, some that went well and some that did not; we heard about heart-wrenching emotional, verbal, and physical violence; and we heard some happy endings as well. The event was emotionally trying, but I know that the speakers shared their struggles with the room in the hopes that it would inspire greater activism or change. In the same way, I hope that my relaying this to you (in no way doing the event justice, I might add) might in some way encourage the same. Coming out is hard, and it is something that LGBTQ people do not confront once but confront daily. Acceptance, or better yet, strong allyship, is critical to making it a little easier.
Although Ally Week has passed, it is my hope that an already strong community of active allies at Booth will continue to grow throughout the year.