While on a fishing trip with his sister, Ethan Poole took a leap of faith — he came out of the closet.
Poole, a sophomore Spanish major, had already revealed this information to some friends, but not his family — he was more worried about what his mom and sister would think of his sexuality than his friends.
“(My sister and I) talked about it for a while,” Poole said. “Then we hugged, and she told me, ‘No matter what, I’ll always love you Ethan, you’ll always be my big brother,’ and that was really sweet.”
Poole also found acceptance in the Virginia Tech community with the LGBTA.
Monday kicked off Tech’s annual Pride Week, in which the LGBTA holds a series of events meant to raise awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender culture and history. Throughout the week, there will be film showings, a dance, open mic night and a special talk from former "Real World: Hawaii" star Ruthie Alcaide.
“It’s one week of the year that our community can really get together and celebrate our pride — because we are, at points, a very disenfranchised community,” said Jared Brumfield, a freshman animal and poultry science and political science major. “So it’s just about raising awareness and showing we are proud of who we are and we’re not ashamed of being what we are.”
As part of Monday's kick-off, LGBTA members distributed candy and condoms on the Drillfield.
“The condoms are to promote safe sex,” Poole said. “Obviously, HIV and AIDS are a big problem in the gay community. And it’s just to promote safe sex and to be healthy and take care of yourself.”
In conjunction with Hillel at Virginia Tech — the foundation for Jewish campus life — the LGBTA hosted a viewing of “Trembling Before God,” a film that features a group of conservative Jewish children dealing with their homosexuality, last night in Squires Student Center's Colonial Hall.
Alcaide's presentation is the major event of Pride Week. Virginia Tech Union originally initiated her visit. However, the LGBTA agreed to co-sponsor her speech.
While Alcaide was on "Real World: Hawaii," she was an excessive drinker, but now tours college campuses to discuss the dangers of alcoholism and encourage safe drinking. She also came out of the closet on the show, so her presentation will focus on LGBT issues, said Ashley Dalton, a senior psychology major and director of speakers for VTU.
Brumfield reported that small isolated instances of homophobia have occurred at Tech, but most students are happy with the level of acceptance on campus. However, Caroline Sapyta, a sophomore environmental resource management major and the LGBTA president, said this depends on who people form relationships with.
“I think it’s fairly open,” Sapyta said. “I think it’s big enough that if you surround yourself by the people who will accept you, then it’s fine. I know various people have had different interactions. Personally, I haven’t had any super bad reactions or feelings around campus, but I think it depends. I usually only surround myself with people who will accept it and not question it.”
Brumfield said this week’s events will illuminate the positives of the LGBT community.
“I hope that they see that we’re nice people,” Brumfield said. “We’re really good people, and we’re just people. I hope they learn — if not to love our community — to at least respect our community and see that we are just people and deserve to be treated as such.”