Events include project to encourage faculty, students, staff to come out
KINGSTON – High school students from throughout the state are gathering at an event hosted by the University of Rhode Island’s LGBTQ Center on Friday, Oct. 11, from 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. to talk about how to make the college experience a success for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“The conference will give youth a chance to connect and know that they can be valued for their authentic selves,” says Annie Russell, director of the LGBTQ Center. “Our collaboration with Youth Pride RI, Inc., on the youth conference is the first of what we hope will become an annual event.” Dinner will be provided.
The conference is part of “Coming Out Week’’ on URI’s Kingston campus, from Sunday, Oct. 6 through Friday, Oct. 11. Designed to be inclusive, Coming out Week has a variety of events to appeal to all people.
On Monday, Oct. 7, from 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m., in the Multicultural Center, details of the URI Visibility Project, which encourages faculty, students and staff to be out on campus, were disclosed. “By being out, people at URI can be role models and begin to transform our campus community into an inclusive place of affirmation and excellence,’’ Russell says.
Later that night, Russell gave a talk called “Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, Sexuality and Gender” in Swan Hall Auditorium.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, the center sponsored a screening of “Laramie Inside Out,’’ an award-winning documentary about Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student whose murder in 1998 sparked national outrage. The movie was shown in Swan Hall Auditorium.
AIDS project Rhode Island offered free, confidential HIV testing on Oct. at URI Health Services.
The LGBTQ Center is teaming up with URI’s Department of Athletics for a Pride Night event, hosted by the women’s soccer team on Oct. 11 at 7:00 p.m. at the URI Soccer Complex behind the Ryan Center.
“We celebrate and honor our LGBTQ history by hosting this event on National Coming Out Day,” says Russell.
Suzanna Lossio, 20, says the event is open to everyone. “The ‘ally’ part of what we do is critical,’’ she says. “We also want to appeal to people who might be straight but want to get involved.’’
Ianna Leshin Szewczok, 20, says “Coming Out Week’’ is a great way to let more people know about the diversity on campus. “I’ve been here three years and I’ve never seen any bullying or hate incidents. The biggest problem is that people are focused on their own social groups and don’t think about how many different types of people we have on campus.”
Jennifer Barrientos, 22, says she is thrilled to be part of the event. She’s a center midfielder on the URI women’s soccer team and helped organize a soccer game to be held on Oct. 11 as part of “Coming Out Week.”
“These events are important because I know how hard it is for some people to come out,’’ she says. “I feel like we’re role models for many students. Especially, as athletes, it’s difficult to be yourself sometimes. Coming out gives you great inspiration to be yourself.’’
“Coming Out Week” is sponsored by the URI LGBTQ Center, Youth Pride RI, Inc., the URI Athletics Department, AIDS Project RI, the URI Gay-Straight Alliance and Orange Leaf. For more information: call the LGBTQ Center at 874-2894 or email Annie Russell (email@example.com). Also, visit the Center’s website (uri.edu/glbt) for the full calendar of events.
Justin Willner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is fifth-year journalism student at URI.