LGBT interest on the rise
More students coming out than ever before solidifies Penn’s gay-friendly reputation
September 28, 2010, 4:51 am·
It’s great to be gay at Penn, according to Newsweek, the publication that recently ranked Penn as the most gay-friendly college in the United States.
This year, Penn has seen a record number of active lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. Approximately 75 students signed up to join the Lambda Alliance and over 150 people attended the Queer Student Alliance’s welcome-back event, “The Gay Affair,” LGBT Center Director Bob Schoenberg said.
He said the Newsweek ranking is a reflection of the fact that “all the stars have aligned at Penn this year.”
More freshmen and upperclassmen are also coming out at the beginning of the school year than ever before, according to Chairman of the Lambda Alliance and Wharton and Engineering junior Tyler Ernst.
Although the exact number is difficult to quantify because not all openly LGBT members participate in LGBT activities, College junior Victor Galli estimates four to five times the number of people who have come out at the start of previous years have come out at the start of the semester.
“It’s a sign that Penn is explicitly gay-friendly,” said Ernst, who attributes this trend to a “very proactive” team of upperclassmen who fostered an environment where “it is cool not just to come out, but to be active in the LGBT community.”
This is true for many students. A College freshman from South Carolina, who wished to remain anonymous because he is not openly gay at home, said he was “counting the days” until he could come out at Penn.
“It’s a very, very liberating experience, especially when you come from a community that is not accepting,” he said. “I came out to my roommate on the first night, and it was totally chill.”
He added that he experienced a “cultural shock” when he discovered that “a gay party at Penn can rival a frat party in size.”
According to College freshman Robert Franco, the LGBT community at Penn is “extremely welcoming and open to everyone.” This contrasts starkly with other schools where the scene is “underground,” he said.
“There are already really deep friendships within the freshmen gay community,” he added.
Wharton freshman Derek Livermont, who is from Montana, said “the whole mentality about [being LGBT] is completely different” at Penn because “sexuality is just another part of a person.”
“A lot of gay students take for granted how progressive Penn is,” he added, emphasizing the need to “give back” to the larger community.
In addition to the influx of freshmen, active members of the LGBT community have seen more upperclassmen coming out this year. Galli speculated that these juniors and seniors are “more comfortable because they feel like they have a large support network.”
A College junior, who wished to remain anonymous because he has not come out to his family, said he joined Lambda this year because he finally became comfortable with his sexual orientation and is interested in meeting more people.
He said he was impressed by the diverse mix of individuals, many of whom “break stereotypes” of being LGBT.
“Gay people are often portrayed as being effeminate, but you see people who act more masculinely doing sports,” he said. “It’s similar to the diversity that you would find anywhere at Penn.”