UU and HU to raise the rainbow flag on Coming Out Day

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Utrecht University and Utrecht University of Applied Sciences are raising the rainbow flag at University Hall on Wednesday, October 11, symbolizing that everyone should be able to have their own sexual preferences openly. It’s the first time the UU is participating in the International Coming Out Day.

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The university’s Diversity Taskforce, in alliance with the University of Applied Sciences (HU) and student association Anteros, have created a program to show that both institutions value the social acceptance of LGBT people, diversity and inclusivity, according to the taskforce’s press release. The program starts with an invite-only breakfast, and raising the rainbow flag at 9 AM. In the afternoon, there’s a mini conference from 2 PM to 7 PM in the David de Wied building in the Uithof, and at night, there’s a special movie night at the HU in the Uithof.

LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. During International Coming Out Day, LGBT people remember the day they ‘came out’, the moment they told friends and family they were gay, bi, or trans. Coming Out Day was started in 1988. In 2009, minister Plasterk of Education, Culture and Science announced Coming Out Day as a national day to improve acceptance of LGBT people. In Utrecht, Coming Out Day is honored in several ways – city hall, for instance, will also raise the rainbow flag.

Johan Rozenbrand, Pharmacy teacher and member of the University Council, is chairman of the mini conference. He says it’s important for the university to honor Coming Out Day. “In the new Strategic Plan, diversity and an inclusive university is mentioned as being important. But sexual diversity isn’t getting a lot of attention. Within the university, sexual preference isn’t immediately visible. When I came here in 1998, I had no idea whether any of my colleagues or students were gay. That only became clearer after I came out at work. You’re still more likely to feel comfortable if you feel like your sexual preference is accepted, and you can be yourself.”

After the Strategic Plan 2016-2020 was announced, a number of employees and students came together to think of ways to give more attention to the topic of sexual diversity. This is necessary even in a progressive environment like a university, Rozenbrand says.

In the discussions about a more diverse, more inclusive university, you encounter dilemmas about cultural background or religion. “Recently, the University Council held a discussion about whether or not we should have gender neutral bathrooms at the UU. This would be a great thing for a certain group of people, but we can also imagine that people from different cultures would prefer separate men’s and women’s toilets. And when we’re talking about homosexuality, there’s bound to be employees and students here who struggle with the concept due to their religious background. So yes, talking about sexual diversity is still necessary here.”

The rainbow flag (left) and the university flag (right) resemble each other quite a lot:

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