Proudly Kicking Down Closet Doors

National Coming Out Day 2018

Proudly Kicking Down Closet Doors

Pride is a monosyllabic word, but its meaning is far from one dimensional. One can feel complete gratification through pride. Pride can also be manifested as a sense of fulfillment after completing a difficult task. However, on Oct. 11, pride specifically encompassed self-confidence and identity as Saint Louis University’s Rainbow Alliance celebrated its second National Coming Out Day.

Rainbow worked with the Cross Cultural Center to table outside of the Center for Global Citizenship from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Buttons, each a different color of the spectrum, dotted the table as cupcakes were handed out by Rainbow members smiling from ear to ear.

Oct. 11 not only marked Rainbow’s tabling event, but it served as a celebration for the Human Rights Campaign. NCOD hallmarks the creation of a safe environment for LGBTQIA+ people to be openly proud about their identities, and this year marked HRC’s 30th anniversary of the celebration.  

The educational arm of HRC, the HRC Foundation, has provided guides to coming out because each person who comes out has a different journey. HRC and Rainbow both believe that the coming out experience is unique to the individual and must be navigated in a way that is comfortable to each person. By holding events, such as Rainbow’s NCOD tabling along West Pine, Rainbow hopes students can feel comfortable embracing their identities.

“National Coming Out Day allows for there to be a presence for LGBTQ people, especially for those who are still in the closet,” Rainbow member Joe Reyes said. “It’s a day where a bunch of people come out to celebrate because we realize that everyone is still at a certain spot in their journey as a queer individual.”

Rainbow wants to offer a safe community to provide support for people, so that they can feel comfortable about themselves. Reyes says that there is no pressure to come out, even on NCOD. However, he mentions that the Rainbow E-board acts as a confidential resource for students.

Beyond Rainbow and other similar groups, such as the LGBTQ Christian Life Community, SLU’s counselor Therese Jacques deals specifically with queer and sexual assault services. Rainbow is also currently working toward initiating a “queer closet,” which emphasizes gender expression by offering a clothing drive for those who wish to dress a certain way but do not have the financial means to do so.

Showcasing identities through services such as these is important because “It can be really dangerous [to be yourself],” VP of External Affairs Brittany Olms said. In order to make the situation less dangerous, Olms also expressed a need to implement a name and pronoun policy in class, especially with professors. Overall, though, she said that SLU does a decent job of providing support for its students, which is paramount because some students’ families are not supportive of their children’s sexual and gender identities.

I know a lot of people who have friends without welcoming homes. Where you grow up can have an effect on mental attitude.

— Olms

She said that National Coming Out Day is about making these people feel like they are not alone.

The formation of National Coming Out Day was originally a response to a national administration that was hostile to gay and lesbian rights and indifferent to the AIDS epidemic. In response to this animosity, the War Conference launched its first NCOD in 1988. Other important products of the collaboration included media campaigns to fight for identity rights.

Today, students continue to see the aftermath of the initial meeting as students are feeling pride in who they are as individuals.

“When you ignore those identities, you don’t give them a chance to be themselves,” Rainbow President Regis Wilson said. “Queer people are more than just stereotypes. Everyone is different, and everyone deserves the opportunity to be who they are.”