LGBT uses National Coming Out Day to support participants

To celebrate National Coming Out Day on Monday, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community will have a prevalent presence on the Quad. Beginning at 9:30 a.m. and continuing with a rally at noon and a variety of guest speakers throughout the day, the community will aim to raise awareness about the issues faced by young LGBT people.

Josh Pagan, sophomore in DGS and political chair of PRIDE, said this year’s event will hold extra importance on a national scale.

“I just hope it shows the importance of coming out. This happens every day, but recently there has been a string of highly publicized suicides across the country and it’s devastating,” he said.

William Blanchard, senior in LAS and president of PRIDE, said he wants people to think about the issues and in turn hopes it will help moderate people’s views about the community.

“One of the big themes that we’re trying to promote this year is that coming out can not only be a personal act but also an act that creates change within the community around you,” Blanchard said. “If you look at the last ten years many more people in the American public have changed their views on homosexual rights. Many more people are now supportive of LGBT issues.”

PRIDE is a Registered Student Organization that works to promote equal rights for the LGBT community locally.

Naomi Heinz, sophomore in DGS, said although people have become much more accepting of the LGBT community there are still strides to be made in terms of building friendships with people of other sexual orientations.

“It has been my experience that many heterosexual people want to be helpful and supportive but they don’t know how to be. Sometimes it’s difficult to start those important conversations and we hope that this day can be a day when these conversations can be brought to the front of the discourse,” Blanchard said.

Leslie Morrow, assistant dean of students and director of the LGBT Resource Center, said Monday’s event will help unite the student body.

“Visibility for us, it always helps. There are many people walking by (on National Coming Out Day) who may stop and listen,” she said. “After the day’s events we always invite people up to the resource center to continue the conversation. They can always share stories, hang out, or check out the resources we have here.”

Along with the rally there will be various guest speakers, one of which is Flo from the reality television show “The Bad Girls Club.”

Pagan said his group chose Flo to illustrate the diversity in the community.

“We were trying to think of a prominent non-gay, white male because we wanted to show the community that the LGBT community comes in a wide spectrum of people.”

Flo is a practicing Muslim who recently came out to her family and faced many hardships in her process. Members of PRIDE hope she will be interesting and inspiring to all people.

“Hopefully the idea of being comfortable with yourself will resonate within every one in the Illinois community,” Pagan said.