Coming Out Week: spreading acceptance

JEREMY TORRES  ‘18

Special to The Denisonian

In honor of Coming Out Week, I’m  here to talk about coming out on this campus and the issues that one may face thereafter.  As a queer person of color, I am highly privileged to be able to outwardly express my sexuality, not just at home but on Denison’s campus as well. Coming out is liberation from the structural and institutional oppression queer people face from the sexual ethos that established those oppression norms. It should be acknowledged that coming out in of itself is a privilege, a privilege not many have.

I remember my first year at Denison in 2014. I was terrified to express who I was immediately. I had this fear that I would not be accepted because of the constant reminder that, “I’m in Ohio now, not New York, and people who are not from the city might treat me harshly.”  This constant fear is what lead me to seek Outlook. I realized then and there that I was privileged to have an organization like Outlook to exist on this tiny campus.

Only a few months after having been involved in Outlook, the way I expressed my identity started to shift from being quiet about whom my sexual attractions were towards to being very open about them. One week in particular that aided me through this was Outlook’s Coming Out Week. It was that very week where I, at Outlooks annual candlelight vigil, told my coming out story.

I told it to faces that I did not know, but whom I am very close with now. That safe space which was openly available to me and other queer students who utilized, it to share their story and express who they are, is a space that allowed me and others to take pride in our identity regardless of where we are located.

The space that allowed me to tell my story is a space of privilege, and I firmly believe that this space shouldn’t come around only once a year. Instead, students on Denison’s campus must feel comfortable to share their story and who they are at all times.

My question then is, are we really a community if we are not providing this support for one another each and everyday? Shouldn’t we all be providing a safe space for every student who lives on this campus? One that carries across campus and is not designated for certain areas or certain student organizations?

I am both satisfied and dissatisfied that Outlook must provide this space for sexual and gender expression. I am satisfied in the fact that students utilize Outlook to figure out their indefinite and complexity, as well as utilizing the space for students to understand others who aren’t struggling over who they are and supporting those students as allies.

I am dissatisfied with that fact that this only occurs in organizational spaces and not outside with the broader community. As a queer person of color, who embodies both of his identities as a gay man and Puerto Rican man, I am proud of how far Outlook has come in providing this space, but I would like to shift this view to the rest of our campus.

Jeremy Torres ‘18 is a political science and queer studies major from Manhattan, New York.