UCSF to Celebrate National Coming Out Day

Kate Kendell

This year's National Coming Out Day on Thursday, Oct. 11, marks the 20th anniversary of the unfurling of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall during the March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights in 1987. The day will be officially marked at UCSF by Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), who will talk about the importance of reflecting on how far society has come and the critical role each person, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, plays in the struggle for LGBT rights. Sponsored by UCSF Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Resources, which is part of the Center for Gender Equity, Kendell is scheduled to talk from noon to 1 p.m. in the School of Nursing, room 217, on the Parnassus campus. Kendell was raised in the Mormon faith in Utah and received her JD degree from the University of Utah College of Law in 1988. She went on to become the first staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. In 1994, she joined NCLR and has served as the organization's executive director for more than a decade. Kendell has been interviewed as an expert on LGBT issues by major media outlets, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report, The Advocate, Crossfire, 20/20, National Public Radio, Salon.com and many other media outlets. Coming out as an LGBT person can have an effect not only on immediate personal relationships, but also on society as a whole, Kendell says. "Our experience is that when someone knows someone who is LGBT, they have a more accepting and embracing attitude around lesbian and gay issues generally," she says. "We encourage people to not just be out on the job, but in all aspects of their lives." Coming Out at Work The idea of being out in the workplace is especially timely now with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) under scrutiny. ENDA is a proposed federal law which, if passed, would make it illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill, introduced as HR 2015, provides protections similar to those found in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title VII, but which are specifically intended to protect LGBT employees. The House Committee on Education and Labor was scheduled to make a decision on the bill earlier this month before handing it off to lawmakers for final approval. As of last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi postponed votes on HR 2015 to later this month because of opposition to a provision of the bill. One of the major issues at stake is whether to include protection of an individual's "gender identity," a provision that would prohibit bias against transgender people. UCSF's LGBT Resources office provides comprehensive services year-round, including educational talks, networking opportunities and informal advising. "We offer support to everyone, whether they came out 20 years ago, will be coming out Thursday or are still thinking things over," says Shane Snowdon, director of LGBT Resources. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) offers an online resource guide to coming out. It suggests making a coming out plan and offers suggestions on how to have a conversation about the subject. HRC provides suggestions about coming out at work, in communities of color and as a straight supporter. With more than 700,000 members and supporters, the Human Rights Campaign is the largest LGBT civil rights organization in the United States. Increasing Visbility In addition to Kendell's talk, the campus community will experience the UCSF Visibility Project, which aims to increase visibility of LGBT people at UCSF by profiling faculty, staff and students who work to support UCSF's fourfold mission of education, research, patient care and public service. Spearheaded by the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues, the Visibility Project began in 2005 to celebrate the diversity of the LGBT campus community through an awareness campaign spotlighting notable personal stories and achievements. This year's project theme, Out & In, is based around the idea of being out at UCSF and being in the community by impacting the lives of others in a positive manner. More than two dozen individuals are being recognized on posters, appearing on shuttles and display cases, through podcast profiles and on an interactive visibility project website, available starting Thursday, Oct. 11. The 2007 Visibility Project team consists of a cross-section of UCSF staff, including Kevin H. Souza, Justin Akers, Christina Cicoletti, Jennifer Cross, Frank Farm, David Rachleff and Peggy Rasmussen. In addition, the student newspaper Synapse will be running a listing of the names of nearly 400 out LGBT UCSF faculty, students, staff, residents, postdocs and fellows. This list has grown from 30 people in 1998, and is also featured on the UCSF LGBT Resources' website. Related Links: Chancellor's Visibility Project UCSF LGBT Resources National Center for Lesbian Rights National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Human Rights Campaign