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BGALA kicks off National Coming Out Week

By Hillary Davis
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 12, 1999

As National Coming Out Week kicked off around the country yesterday, residents of UA dorms joined in the pursuit for equality and awareness of homosexuals in society.

Colorfully lettered posters filled with facts and statistics about homosexuality decorate the lobbies of residence halls as part of a programming campaign sponsored by the University of Arizona Department of Residence Life.

The campaign aims to educate dorm dwellers about other cultures and lifestyles, said Matt Helm, Residence Life coordinator for multicultural education.

Helm said similar displays are posted in all of the residence halls as part of a contest devised by El Mundo, the committee for multicultural education within Residence Life.

"Basically, we know that our culture is getting more diverse," Helm said. "Our committee challenges each of the residence halls to put up educational murals to promote education of diversity."

"This is one, across races, that people are still somewhat judgmental about," Helm said.

The awareness-raising week, however, has already been marred by anti-homosexual vandalism in a UA residence hall.

At Manzanita-Mohave Residence Hall, one of the displays was a target of homophobic graffiti early yesterday morning.

Shaving cream letters spelling the word "faggot" covered part of a triangular, rainbow-striped poster located near the dorm's east entrance. The poster, which was surrounded by multi-colored feet symbolizing a "walk in their shoes," was quickly cleaned by a resident assistant who discovered the epithet.

Jennifer Barbuscia, a psychology senior and resident assistant who helped create the poster, said she was concerned by the vandalism. Given the controversial nature of the displays, the incident did not come as a surprise, she said.

"We've been working on this for two weeks now, and we expected it to be ripped down the first night," she said. "I guess I should have been more upset, but I almost expected it."

Resident assistants in Manzanita-Mohave are already preparing to combat further anti-gay vandalism. Signs taped near the posters state that any additional destruction of the posters will be reported to university police as a hate crime.

Mindy Padove, a physical education junior visiting a friend in the hall, walked along the path of posters reading while she waited for her friend.

"I think it makes people aware that people they're living with could be this way and makes them more considerate and understanding," she said.

Though some residents of his dorm have verbally expressed anti-gay sentiments, John Ryan, another resident assistant at Manzanita-Mohave, said the Coming Out Week posters have been successful.

"For every negative reaction, I'm seeing a lot more positive reactions from people," he said. "It (negative opinion) is definitely the minority."

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