National Coming Out Day stresses gay rights
“Thanks for coming out, everyone, and speaking of coming out…” President of Linfield’s FUSION Club, sophomore Aidan Willers, welcomed the audience with a pun that sent a wave of laughter around the auditorium.
In honor of National Coming Out Day, various organizations, including FUSION, the Associated Students of Linfield College (ASLC), Linfield Activities Board (LAB), the Chaplain’s Office and the Division of Student Affairs helped welcome gay moralist John Corvino to speak about the importance of rethinking assumptions about homosexuality and morality.
Prior to the presentation in Ice Auditorium on Oct. 11, FUSION and Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) brought awareness to National Coming Out Day in a unique way outside of Dillin.
Linfield’s FUSION Club stands for “Finding Similarities, Understanding Differences, Spreading Equality, Increasing Awareness, Obliterating Hatred and Nurturing Love.”
FUSION members reached out to students by setting up tables during lunch hours and passing out their signature “Love is Love” rainbow bracelets, candy and sexual-preference labels.
Students wrote their sexual preference on the labels instead of their names. These labels were seen as an act of “coming out” and physically wearing one’s sexuality on their sleeve.
Members also encouraged students to walk through their makeshift “closet door” to announce their sexuality. The doorway was adorned with the brightly colored handprints of this year’s FUSION members and was set up smack-dab in the middle of the sidewalk.
“Doing so made people notice, giving attention to the whole point of the day,” Willers said via email. “Coming out is a hard, difficult process. Today was a day to take notice.”
Students and faculty continued to recognize the important day well into the evening. A small gathering attentively listened to Corvino’s presentation that addressed both sides of the gay rights debate.
Corvino is currently an associate professor and chair of philosophy at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. In addition to teaching, Corvino has been an active speaker and writer on moral subjects since the ’90s.
His articles and opinion pieces have been published in national and regional print media. Corvino is also a co-author, along with Maggie Gallagher of recently published book “Debating Same-Sex Marriage.”
Corvino’s presentation, which started off with discussing the trends of our nation’s attitudes toward same-sex marriage, was similar to the debate-style structure of his recently published book.
“Back in 1996, 68 percent of Americans opposed letting same-sex couples marry, 27 percent supported it,” Corvino said. “It wasn’t until 2011, last year, that the majority of respondents supported marriage for same-sex couples.”
Corvino believes that despite the evidence the polls suggest, there is still a lingering discomfort among people that are supportive of gay marriage, especially older generations.
With the upcoming election, the issue of gay rights deserves a careful public dialogue. Corvino’s presentation addressed common claims made on both sides of the debate and demonstrated the importance of continuing discussion about the gay rights movement.
“I think gay rights is our generation’s civil rights battle,” Willers said. “If you think about it, every generation has one.”
As Corvino said, “each generation has its blind spots on civil rights. The next generation comes around, thinking they won’t make the same mistakes as their past generations did, yet are presented with another set of blind spots. That’s the thing about blind spots. You can’t see them.”
Corvino encouraged the audience to take action and the initiative to discuss gay rights with their parents.
“It is a plea for ongoing conversation,” Corvino said. “I want you to do it for the sake of those who come after us.”
The debate-style presentation was useful for those in the audience who are hesitant about which side to support. Corvino, himself gay, dismissed claims of anti-gay activists. Two main arguments he addressed were those of unnaturalness and religious matters.
“Think about all the ways we act unnatural,” Corvino said.
He went on to discuss his entire daily routine, similar to many of those in the audience and the bounty of unnatural practices that it includes.
Alarm clocks, showers and automobiles were just a few aspects of his day that are entirely unnatural. He argued that rather than naturally waking up to a rooster crow, we set alarm clocks to wake up. Therefore, much of our society practices unnatural things everyday.
So why should being gay be any different?
His argument for religion followed a similar pattern. On the other side of the debate, people argue that we shouldn’t judge gay people’s decisions. However, Corvino surprisingly disagrees.
Corvino introduced the argument titled, “Morality is a private matter so you shouldn’t judge other people.”
“If morality is a private matter, why do you keep telling me what to do?” Corvino said. “There are standards we hold for society which are everyone’s concern, and marriage is a social institution.”
In his conclusion, Corvino was open-minded to both sides of the debate. People are opinionated and it is important to educate oneself and continue discussion.
Without continued discussion and participation in gay rights efforts, such as those put on by FUSION, the current generation is likely to experience blind spots.