Coming Out Day embraces LGBT lifestyles, community acceptance

Students gathered on the Quad Tuesday to raise awareness for National Coming Out Day. A variety of registered student organizations, or RSOs, came together to plan and host several events in recognition.

The date was chosen in 1988 in conjunction with the anniversary of the March on Washington for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, rights. The event, which has since been observed annually, has evolved to serve a variety of purposes for the LGBT community.

“The idea is to use the day to come out either to someone who you’ve never come out to before, or to just come out about your identity as being an important piece of who you are,” said Katherine Weseman, assistant director of the LGBT Resource Center.

On Monday and Tuesday, the University offered several opportunities to get involved with the celebration. The events were co-sponsored by a group of RSOs, which included Women of Pride, Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Building Bridges, Pride, Bi Pride and Colors of Pride. As part of the festivities, queer musical group God-des and She held a question and answer session on Monday night at the Illini Union, event co-sponsors held a rally on the Quad Tuesday afternoon and God-des and She performed on Tuesday night in the Courtyard Café.

“College is, for a lot of people, a time to come out,” said Kyle Zak, president of Pride and junior in LAS, who emceed the National Coming Out Day rally. “We’re blessed by having many queer people who were in the closet for most of the semester or up until then (who) came out on that day.”

He added that the day is also meant “to show solidarity (for the LGBT community).”At the rally, representatives from sponsoring RSOs made brief presentations expressing their spirit for the event.

J.R. Rico , senior in Engineering, is president of the RSO Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. When asked about potential negative reactions to National Coming Out Day, Rico explained that “because we are at a university of advanced thinking, so far … all of the responses we have gotten have been positive.”

As a community, Rico said he finds Champaign-Urbana to be accepting.

“Even though we’re not a big city, we’re not a city of hate.”