The LGBTQA & Social Justice Center held a fair in honor of National Coming Out Day this past Thursday Oct. 11. The front of One Pace Plaza was packed with pride as the university’s LGBT community and their supporters came out for the fair.
This year acknowledges the 25th anniversary of the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, when half a million people gathered in Washington D.C. The march was the second of its kind, and marks the date of the first National Coming Out Day. The idea was established to counter the trend of having to defend themselves against anti-gay sentiments, and instead praise their identity.
“National Coming Out day can be a culmination of courage, pride and solidarity,” said Daniel Molina, Psychology Professor and LGBT advocate. She added, “It is giving a voice to those that may not feel they have one, today.”
The Coming Out Day Fair had several tables set up representing other university organizations that held relevance to the LGBT community. The tables for arts and crafts were consistently occupied, and the voter registration table drew in young adults with this year’s theme, “Come Out. Vote.”
“The turnout is great this year,” said Roberto Chavez, vice president of Pace University Stonewall Coalition, adding “We’ve had better luck with weather than in recent years and there’s a lot to do.”
At 12:30, Kelly Herbert, the university’s LGBTQA & Social Justice Center coordinator took the stage to begin the precession of speakers and poets. Herbert explained to a growing group of spectators the history of National Coming Out Day, and advocated for political awareness regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law currently being challenged on the state level that strictly defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
“National Coming Out Day is an important demonstration of Pace’s support for our LGBTQA students,” Herbert said.
There were several poetry and spoken word performances. Among those who took the stage were Sam LaRoche, Joanna Hoffman, and J. Mase III.
J. Mase III, an activist within the LGBT community and outspoken poet, was present for a recitation and said that he enjoyed the fair for a variety of reasons.
“I love working with Sam, and today I got to see more of her work,” Mase said. “I really enjoy getting to hang out with other poets.”
The subject matter of the performances covered many of the negative experiences and emotions associated with a lack of acceptance. Such messages were particularly relevant on a day devoted to peoples’ ability to live openly. National Coming Out Day focused on promoting general acceptance.
The coming out process is regarded as a complex emotional experience for a wide range of reasons. Being met with acceptance and even respect is a privilege that many people have not experienced.
“Being accepted amongst people that you invest your time with allows an individual to feel simply comfortable for who they are,” Molina said. “This truly is a personal journey for each individual.”
“Coming out is a continuous process in the life of a LGBTQ individual,” Chavez said. “A gay individual may have to come out depending on new social circles where he or she feels safe.”
Chavez, had positive things to say about his experience being gay at Pace, but elaborated on the complexity of the situation for others.
“Fellow LGBTQ individuals should not be so quick to judge someone who is in the closet. A student can be openly gay or transgender here at Pace University, but they may in fact be closeted when they go home. That is scary. We forget that people are out depending on where they are and with whom they are around.”