On Oct. 10, 2000, students arrived on campus to a gruesome image. A closet which had been built on the mall by Q-MSU (Now QSA MSU) in celebration of Coming Out Day, a national celebration of identity and the concept of “coming out of the closet,” was deconstructed. In its place hung empty nooses. Members of the club rebuilt it that afternoon, and it bore messages like “closets are for clothes.” Despite Q-MSU students camping out overnight after the initial vandalism, someone attempted to torch the closet with a bottle of turpentine and a rag that night. Nicole Osbourne, then a co-chair of Q-MSU felt the message in the vandalism was that queer students on campus were not wanted. She commented to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle: “As long as we’re in the closet, basically things are fine, as long as people don’t have to know we’re here.”
Fast forward 16 years, and the climate on campus is much different. Coming Out Day truly has become a celebration. This past Saturday, Oct. 8, marked the 11th annual Coming Out Drag Show and Dance, put on by QSA. A rowdy crowd of approximately 300 people packed the SUB to watch kings and queens put on a dazzling show. The night included performances by Iowa Caucus, MC Hexx Shadow, Electra Sexton, Jaja Ohmai, Chase McGroin, and Barely Legal.
On Tuesday Oct. 11, the date recognized as Coming Out Day, the Diversity Awareness Office put on a Coming Out Info Fair. Participants were encouraged to partake in an interactive mural by adding their identities in chalk. Various offices around campus, including the VOICE Center, a representative from Marga Hosaeus Fitness Center, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Registrar’s Office, PresbyCats and the F-Word club set up booths to show their support and encouragement for LGBTQ+ students and provide information and resources. There were bubbles, fliers and pins with slogans like “Closets are for clothes.” Ryan Erickson, MSU’s graduate assistant for LGBTQ+ student support in the Diversity Awareness Office said, “Coming out is an incredibly privileged opportunity because there are a lot of people who do not have the opportunity to come out based on issues [such as] safety. I think it’s important to remember on this day that we’re also celebrating people who can’t come out. We want them to know that they’re loved and supported regardless of whether or not they’re out of the closet.” This sentiment, and the support shown around campus, is a far cry from October 2000, and highlights MSU’s social progress. Students can visit montana.edu/lgbtqto learn more about LGBTQ+ resources on campus.