Pride Alliance sponsors events to promote tolerance

According to Rachel Hoerger ’06, awareness chair of Pride Alliance, Coming Out Week is designed to celebrate and support all members of the LGBTQ community of Amherst, including those unaffiliated with the Pride Alliance.

“The main function of Coming Out Week is to make queer students on campus, both those who are out and those who are not � feel comfortable on campus, feel accepted, recognize the pretty strong support system that we have both among students and with faculty and staff and resources,” said Hoerger. “It’s … more than mere acceptance. It’s also a celebration of coming out and the fact that it can be a very empowering process and end result.”

Events included tabling in Keefe Campus Center and yesterday’s “Queering the Family” discussion panel about LGBTQ people’s experiences in different kinds of families.

“I think it’s important for people to hear others stories and experiences,” said Alison Squire ’04 at the panel.

Danny Roberts, a gay rights activist and former cast member of MTV’s “The Real World: New Orleans,” will give a lecture tomorrow at 8 p.m. in Johnson Chapel, an event which is co-sponsored by the Amherst College Program Board. He will speak about gay issues pertaining to college students and youth in America, as well as homosexuality in the military.

“We have tried to include a variety of educational and social events in the week in an attempt to reach out to as many people as possible,” said Pem Brown ’06, an executive board member of Pride Alliance. “We have also connected with students from the other five colleges so we aren’t isolated from the community at large.”

Pride Alliance will show “But I’m a Cheerleader,” a comic film about a teenage girl sent to a lesbian-reform camp, at 8 p.m. in Merrill 4 as a continuation of the “Women Who Love Women” movie series.

The week’s events will conclude with Saturday’s Gay Amherst Party (GAP), a Sun Valley-themed party reminiscent of the rowdy party in the movie “Clueless.” The party begins at 10 p.m. in Newport House.

Julia Fox ’07 praised Pride Alliance members for their efforts. “I think it’s a really important thing for Amherst to make this kind of statement,” she said.

Ben Kessler ’07 agreed. “I’m glad that Amherst is making an effort to create a more positive environment for closeted [LGBTQ students] to come out,” he said.

The purpose of the week is to promote comfort and acceptance and to encourage members of the College community to appreciate themselves and others.

“The ultimate goal is to foster an environment that celebrates everyone for all of who they are, including their sexual orientation,” said Elaine Brigham, coordinator of LGBTQ Support and Services. “The point is not to pressure anyone to come out, but to show people that there are resources available on and off campus. We stress that coming out is not a one-time thing; it is a complex process.”

“We hope that this week will show that Amherst College is a safe and embracing community for LGBTQ people,” said Brown. “As more people are comfortable being open about their sexuality, the more accepting our society will become.”