Campus celebrates Coming Out Week


While attending Catholic school for 12 years, Matt Rabatin learned that being gay was wrong… While attending Catholic school for 12 years, Matt Rabatin learned that being gay was wrong and that it was against all the teachings of the church.

“I hear that you are wrong, that you are going to hell, you are evil,” he said. “You are the demise of society and that sort of thing. So I have a really bad view of the Catholic church.”

Rabatin, a junior at Pitt and vice president of Rainbow Alliance, was one of 30 students taking part in “Homophobia: The Power of Words,” part of a series of events for National Coming Out Week.

The Rainbow Alliance and Hillel co-sponsored the event.

The event began with audience members viewing a clip from the movie “Philadephia,” during which Denzel Washington’s character tells his wife his feelings about gay people.

Mary Jo Loughram, a psychologist and counselor at Pitt, highlighted the difficulty the gay community still has finding tolerance in society.

“I think it’s impossible to grow up in this culture and not be homophobic,” she said. “I think we need to respect that each person is on their own journey.”

The conversation ranged from the television show “Will and Grace” to the writings of Shakespeare, and discussed the link between stereotypes of the gay community and stereotypes of the Jewish community.

Greg Spicer, an assistant professor at California University of Pennsylvania, also talked about the roots of the word “homophobia.”

“Homophobia means fear of the same, and that seems to be a hard nut to crack,” he said.

Scott Goldman, co-chair of the diversity committee in Hillel and a member of Rainbow Alliance, refuses to be defined by his sexuality.

“It’s not what makes me what I am, but it’s a part of me,” Goldman said.

Dan Harris, a junior at Pitt and member of Hillel, believes that a lot of opinions about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are formed in ignorance.

“It’s not what [homophobia] comes from, it’s what it doesn’t come from,” Harris said.

Aaron Weil, director of Hillel, sees much in common between the gay and Jewish communities and the importance of language in describing both.

“There is such a stigma to both communities and perhaps more so for those who are both,” Weil said. “Having the opportunity to understand the language that people use to relate to both communities can help break down the walls of ignorance.”

Goldman stressed the importance of tolerance and education in helping people understand each other.

“No matter what walk of life you come from, there are always issues of diversity; where if you attempt to understand them, it allows people to become more diverse and to learn about similarities with one another,” Goldman said.