by CAMERON BOLTON
Oct. 11 was National Coming Out Day.
“I think it just calls attention to the struggle that coming out can be for people,” said Anna Richardson, a freshmen politics and economics major. “And it, like, celebrates people who have gotten through the process, have had to deal with the fear or reality that their friends, their family may not accept the fundamental truth that they know about themselves. And it helps people like that realize that they aren’t alone. Cause a lot of times with the LGBT community, it can be difficult to find the community if you’re not looking for it. And this is just a way that people can see that it’s out there.”
M.Ed. Tony Tyler, director of student engagement, equity, and inclusion at Drake University, said that Rainbow Union often does programming around that time. This year Rainbow Union is going to be having a drag show. Over the years, there have been all sorts of programming from educational ones on campus to highlight concerns and experiences that LGBTQ folks have to parties and celebrations. In addition to efforts to support people who have come out and those who are thinking of coming out.
According to Tyler, nationally, there’s been a wide range of things from AIDS activism, commemoration events and talking about the joys and challenges of coming out of the closet. There’s not any central committee that plans anything or an established tradition that goes on. Instead, Tyler thinks that lots of different local communities find lots of different ways of celebrating it.
“I think it is definitely lower-key than pride month would be or those related celebrations,” said Richardson. “A lot of what I’ve seen is mostly just people taking the day to share their stories. Especially the stories of like it gets better. Like this might have been what happened when I first came out, but now I’m doing well. And that can be a good reminder for people.”
Other resources for LGBTQ+ people are affinity groups, a group of faculty and students who provide support. Over the summer, the university established on the Drake website a series of pages for equity and inclusion. That can equip and train and educate folks on how to be supportive of LGBTQ folks.
“I think it’s a really important topic for people to think about,” said Tyler. “So, I think of different communities in reference to that, So, I think of, oftentimes for first-year students who have come to Drake, and sometimes when they’ve come to college, it’s a time to fully be themselves or fully explore who they are, maybe in a way they didn’t feel comfortable doing back home. So I think about even national coming out day coincides fairly closely with fall break, oftentimes it’s one of the first times students go back to visit their family. And in this time that they’ve been at Drake, they might or might not have been thinking about coming out to their friends maybe here at Drake. Maybe even out here on campus, but aren’t out back home, so it’s really important for those folks experiencing that to be thoughtful about what does going home look like, you know, and do I want to talk to my family about this when I go back. And maybe they want to, and it’s a good place for them to be and be open, thoughtful, and conversational with their family, and for some, it might not be yet, and that’s also okay.”
Tyler said that while it’s a great thing for people to be themselves publicly fully, it’s essential to realize that not everyone is in a place where they can do that. Where there are physical safety concerns, psychological, or emotional safety concerns, they might need to wait and think through that some more, and that all those places are okay.
Richardson, speaking of her own experience and the experience of people that she knows, advised that people thinking of coming out of the closet should make sure there safe first. If they believe that there’s a possibility that things could go badly, then they don’t need to come out. such as the possibility of getting kicked out of the house. Richardson has known people who have had that happen to them.
“Even if it feels like you’re missing out. Because coming out day, it definitely celebrates coming out, sometimes they don’t always mention that, or it’s a little bit forgotten about in the celebration. But also, if you think somebody might be accepting of you, you shouldn’t let your own fears stop you. So it can be hard to decide when’s a good time. Just make sure you have people supporting you before you go up to the people who you fear might not be.” Said Richardson.