UIS students and faculty burst through the colorful door and onto a stage in front of dozens of supporters at the LGBTQ Resource Office’s fifth annual Coming Out on the Quad event.
Coming Out on the Quad consists of participants lining up offstage and then proceeding, one at a time, through a door and onto the stage. The participants then speak to the audience about a topic of their choice. Coming Out on the Quad is an event created to honor National Coming Out Day, which was Oct. 11.
Kerry Poynter, Director of the LGBTQ Resource Office, also mentioned the tradition behind this event, saying, “This is the fifth year we have made it an event but students were putting the door on the quad all day long on National Coming Out Day a few years before. I think this is the tenth year.”
Some of the speakers read relevant poetry, some told stories both happy and difficult, and others simply said a small piece about their appreciation for the LGBTQ community on campus. After finishing, each speaker signed the ‘closet door’. The door, which was quite decorated by the end of the two hour event, will be displayed in the LBGTQ Resource office in the Student Life Building.
Held on Oct. 16, Coming Out on the Quad was attended by faculty, staff and students alike.
There was a broad range in student speakers, as both graduate and undergraduate students spoke.
Chancellor Susan Koch also made an appearance as the first speaker, stating, “I am really, really proud to come out today again as an ally of our LGBTQ community here at UIS.” The chancellor concluded her speech by saying, “I want you to know that I am an ally of this community.”
Dr. Megan Styles, an Assistant Professor with the Environmental Studies Department, also represented non-students speaking at the event.
She said, “I am proud and impressed by all of your bravery today, and very grateful to the Chancellor and all of you who come out to support us all as allies.”
The large and diverse turnout impressed Poynter. “Every year it is good to see so many students participating as well as staff and faculty… I love that we liven up the sleepy quad every year with this event,” she remarked.
Many students came to the event wearing their brightly colored “Out is In” T-shirts, which complimented the vibrant colors on the stage itself. The vivid color scheme, when combined with the constant applause from the audience, created a supportive atmosphere.
Senior student William Kipp, who spoke at the event, said of his experience, “Coming out in front of a group of people who I go to school with is definitely different than coming out in front of friends and family. I’ve actually found it to be easier coming out through here than it was initially talking to my family.” When asked about the atmosphere of the event, Kipp said, “Yeah, here on the quad we always try to make it inclusive…we try to make is so that people are comfortable.”
The Human Rights Campaign explains on its website that “Every year on National Coming Out Day, we celebrate coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or as an ally. On Oct. 11, 2014, we will mark the 26th anniversary of National Coming Out Day.” The organization goes on to claim that “Coming out still matters. When people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are far more likely to support equality under the law. Beyond that, our stories can be powerful to each other.”
The idea of devoting a day to the concept of coming out was conceived in 1988, when a large group of activists decided that something must be done to reduce the power that anti-gay groups held over their community. The group decided to devote a day to the celebration of coming out, which is Oct. 11 in honor of a massive 1987 march on Washington for lesbian and gay rights.