Colleagues share stories on National Coming Out Day

October 09, 2018

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Events mark day

Come Out for Cupcakes
Celebrating National Coming Out Day
When: Thursday, Oct. 11, 2-3 p.m.
Where: Sorrell Center Alumni Commons
The UNMC and Nebraska Medicine LGBTQ+ Employee Alliance invites you to help celebrate National Coming Out Day -- with cupcakes! "This day is significant because it helps boost the visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals and builds community," said Emily Glenn of the alliance. "Everyone is welcome to stop by for a cupcake -- whether you identify as LGBTQ+, as an ally, or just really like cupcakes. We will have wonderful cupcakes from Cupcake Omaha -- thanks to Amy Dorton for the connection."

Queer Omaha Archives Tour (University of Nebraska at Omaha)
When: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 4-5 p.m.
Where: University of Nebraska at Omaha, Criss Library, archives & special collections, 6401 University Dr. N., Omaha
Join the UNMC and Nebraska Medicine LGBTQ+ Employee Alliance to learn more about local LGBTQ+ history during LGBT History Month. Tour the Queer Omaha Archives with Amy Schindler, director of archives & special collections. The Queer Omaha Archives preserves Omaha's LGBTQIA+ history as part of the UNO Libraries' Archives & Special Collections. Historical materials documenting Omaha's diverse LGBTQIA+ communities are collected and made available to the public by archivists and librarians to more widely share Omaha's stories.

And check out these University of Nebraska-Lincoln History Month Activities.

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Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day. To mark the day, members of the UNMC community reached out to LGBTQ+ employees and allies to discuss some defining moments in their journey.

For Jim Kieffer, talent management department, human resources, at Nebraska Medicine, and his partner (now husband), a defining moment occurred in late 2000. They became one of the original plaintiff couples in the legal opposition to the constitutionality of the outcome of the passing of Nebraska Proposition 416. Prop 416 amended the Nebraska State Constitution to say that it was illegal for the state of Nebraska to recognize or perform same-sex couple marriages or civil unions.

"We did not win this court case, which went all the way to federal district court, but during this time of working with the ACLU, I learned a lot about the power of educating people," he said. "With education, many people who were originally for Prop 416 learned more about LGBTQ+ people and could no longer support this form of discrimination against that community. Of course, the Nebraska state ruling was eventually declared unconstitutional when the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in June 2015."

Being rejected by the Red Cross from donating blood in the aftermath of 9/11 in New York City was a turning point in the life of Raj Dave, Ph.D., an instructor in pharmacology and experimental neuroscience.

"Subsequently, there were several other uncomfortable incidents," Dr. Dave said. "As a result of these experiences, I started volunteering with non-profit organizations in Philadelphia -- the William Way Gay Community Center, the Equality Forum and the Washington West Project. I was thrilled to join the board of directors at Mazzoni Center, as I do HIV/AIDS research and they focus on affordable health care for the LGBTQ+ community.

"My colleagues have often questioned why I choose to be 'out at work,'" Dr. Dave said. "Being 'out at work' and doing community outreach can backfire. Some perceive it as being not committed to the science. However, for me it completes the circle. I definitely want to be that ally with whom LGBTQ+ students feel very comfortable. I want to create a nurturing environment that has been frequently absent in my career."

Dr. Dave thinks staff, faculty and students coming to UNMC or Nebraska Medicine will be pleasantly surprised by the welcoming efforts of the LGBTQ+ Employee Alliance.

"There is strength in numbers permitting everyone to thrive and find their unique niche," he said.

"It is gratifying to see how, year to year, our organization becomes more committed, through word and deed, to serving our LGBTQ+ patients and employees well," Kieffer said.

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