October is LGBTQ History Month. More specifically, today is National Coming Out Day.
But what does it mean to “come out”?
Coming out is not a one-time experience; it is a lifelong journey. A journey that is perilous for some, because there are at least three hate-crimes committed against queer people a day. This is all the more reason for people to come out against systems that still promote inequity and to address how University of Richmond's institutions are fraught with oppression and controversy.
Specifically, I am reminded of Paul Queally’s past remarks about queer people and how we can learn from his example of how to progress as a community.
Queally's response was salt in the wound. I use “response” rather than apology because he never expressed ideas of repentance or remorse in his statement. Instead, he deferred or offered a non-apology without ever actually offering identification, atonement or resolution. In short, he stated that a lesson was learned, not that he himself internalized that lesson.
He claimed his comment was “unwise” and “ill-considered” but never mentioned the hurt he caused for an entire group of people he mocked. He equated an entire history of pain as an inconvenience by ending his statement with, “Those who know me understand this,” instead of a pledge to stand with queer people in solidarity in order to ensure this never happens again.
Even as the wound healed, the erection of UR’s new admissions building with Queally’s name plastered over the entrance during my senior year was a constant reminder of how much money influences this school.
Paul Queally never said he was sorry.
When someone hurts another human being and feels regret, he does not simply say that it is unfortunate that those events occurred. He feels shame and discovers a sense of duty to uplift others.
Queally’s statement is not an isolated incident. Former professor and Dean of Richmond College Austin E. Grigg made comments labeling queer people as “perverse.” UR now awards a scholarship in his name, as if to honor his legacy that has harmed an entire group of people.
This is unacceptable.
We as a society should not try to feign ignorance, brush off social inequity or appeal to humor just because it makes an easy joke.
In essence, the LGBTQ community deserves an offering of support not only in words, but also through action. I use Queally and Griggs as a reference to a larger systemic issue since my own struggle was personified through them while I was on campus.
I say this because my skin is my fag jacket.
I am lucky to have not been a part of a grim statistic.
I am fortunate, because of my cisgender identity, to not have to endure constant misgendering.
I am hurt by the constant reminder that simply existing as a queer person is illegal in 77 countries.
I am tired of having to justify my sexuality and defend against the legitimacy of my choices in sexual and romantic partners.
I am still grieving over the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting.
I am ready to be treated as an equal.
Time may not heal all wounds, but we can learn from the scars they create. LGBTQ Month is meant as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.
Coming out means standing in solidarity with all people who suffer from marginalization even if we personally do not. Coming out is embracing the meaning of the rainbow flag and encouraging people to live authentic, diverse and positive lives. So let us allow everyone to come out. Let us embrace and love everything about what it means to be perfectly queer.
Contact opinion contributor Zach Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org.