Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Tom Fleischmann
GRAND RAPIDS – Halfway through the afternoon gathering in honor of National Coming Out Day, students in charge of Out N’ About had already ran out of rainbow ribbons to give away.
This increased activity and interest from the student body is typical of how the school year has been going for Grand Valley State University’s LGBTQ group. When Out N’ About first began celebrating NCOD eight years ago, the day meant no more than a few students handing out ribbons on campus. This year, the organization offered a two-hour gathering in the center of campus, an informational meeting for faculty and staff, and an evening speaker for any interested students.
Out N’ About President and Grand Valley student Sarah Hager was very pleased with all aspects of the day. “Today is about fostering education, discussion, and acceptance,” she explained. “Even if no students choose today to come out, we can provide education about coming out as well as a safe place with other students and faculty.”
The afternoon gathering, busy with passing students and at least one entire class, offered the type of education Hager hoped for. Groups such as Planned Parenthood, PFLAG of Holland, HIV/AIDS Services, and the on-campus Office of Multicultural Affairs were represented.
Alice St. Clair of Planned Parenthood was excited her organization could take part in the day again. “It’s nice to see the younger generation energized,” she said, after explaining a petition about reproductive rights to an interested student.
St. Clair kept visitors to her table entertained with a funny and relevant game on sexual and reproductive health. As she spun the question wheel and challenged students to answer correctly, a visiting English class laughed along. For her, the connection to NCOD was obvious. “It’s about being open to educating all people,” she stressed.
Immediately after the campus gathering, advisor and LGBTQ campus liaison Milt Ford headed to the noon faculty and staff meeting. Here, visiting speaker Dr. John Corvino addressed an audience of about eighty, including several members of the university’s central administration.
Corvino also spoke to students at nine that evening. Both speeches focused on moral arguments against homosexuality in Corvino’s funny, poignant style.
“It provides a very educated response to those who aren’t accepting,” Hager said of the event. Her organization has had Corvino to campus before, always with positive results. This year, an impressive three hundred people showed up at the end of the day to hear him speak. Afterwards, they showed their appreciation with a spontaneous standing ovation.
This upswing in support of LGBTQ issues is typical of changes taking place on Grand Valley’s campus. Despite the strong right-wing heritage in West Michigan, Out N’ About has seen an increase in involvement for a few years now. While last year the organization had around twenty active members, this year meetings can draw upwards of forty or fifty participants.
Grand Rapids Community College also offered ribbons and information on campus, showing that the increased interest in LGBTQ issues is occurring throughout Grand Rapids.