Susan McDonough is assistant professor of history and affiliate assistant professor of gender and women’s studies at UMBC.
I organize my life with a lot of lists – names of my future children, items I forgot during the last trip to the grocery store, student papers that need grading, things to pack for the next car trip. They are usually written on the backs of envelopes or, at best, in the memo pad on my phone. The goal isn’t permanence or visual splendor, they are just jots to remind me to do something; I am the only audience for these lists.
Today, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of National Coming Out Day, in a year that saw DOMA struck down, Prop 8 invalidated, and same-sex marriages take place in Maryland, I am excited to participate in the creation of a different kind of list, the UMBC OutList.
Unlike the scribbles meant for my eyes only, the OutList is for everyone at UMBC, for everyone who might come to UMBC, for everyone who’s only heard of UMBC. It is a list of faculty and staff who have chosen to identify themselves as members of UMBC’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community. Its message is simple: it says to members of the LGBTQ community that they are not alone and are well-represented at UMBC. It says to faculty and staff that they have a group to turn to for support, for a conversation, to ask a question. It gives students a list of go-to people with whom they don’t have to use ambiguous or neutral language about one of their central aspects of themselves. The OutList isn’t just one person’s list. The enthusiasm of LGBTQ faculty and staff, the support of the Provost’s office, and the creative eye of the folks in Institutional Advancement all made this happen.
This is a big deal. There is no unifying experience among those who have chosen to participate in the OutList. Some have been out for a long time, others only recently. Some have experienced overt discrimination because of their identity, while others have not. But the power of this list lies not in telling a single story, but in uniting many. And, in the fact that it represents the first time our University, as an institution, has said, “Here are some of our LGBTQ faculty and staff, and we are proud of them.”
A lot of my lists end up lost, tossed, or written over. The OutList, though, is here to stay.
Contact the author, Susan McDonough, at firstname.lastname@example.org.