Fostering a community

Davies’ dons the rainbow flag in honor of National Coming Out Day

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While National Coming Out Day is normally celebrated on Oct. 11, this year the UW-Eau Claire Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center pushed the event back to Oct. 13, so students would be on campus.

The Campus mall was full of free condoms and HIV prevention information, people registering students to vote, students promoting groups that encourage diversity, a tent blaring music and welcoming speakers and canvases spread out waiting to reflect the different handprints of students on Monday to celebrate National Coming Out Day.

National Coming Out Day provides a space for those who have come out to celebrate their identity and encounter a supportive community, Chris Jorgenson said. Jorgenson, the director of the Women’s and LGBTQ Resource Center, said the event is also a reminder to those who aren’t yet comfortable enough to come out that there is a community of people ready to support them.

“There are plenty of people who attend, but don’t attend, just by walking by it, seeing what is happening,” Jorgenson said. “In subsequent years when they are ready to come out, they will be able to avail themselves of the resources and have that camaraderie with people who know exactly what it’s like.”

While no students shared their personal coming out stories this year, Jorgenson said the event was still a success.

“People were much more reluctant to do that this year,” Jorgenson said. “You never know why.”

He said the success of the event is that there are people assembled, with engagements, such as a speech from Dean of Students Joseph Abhold, happening while people are walking through the campus mall to get to their next class. The speakers affirm the university is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion.

The event is meant to celebrate and also educate, Jorgenson said.  He said people must acknowledge the effort is still necessary to create a safe space where there isn’t one naturally.

Erin Bernardy participated in National Coming Out Day by working with the College Democrats to register students to vote. Bernardy said she would register people to vote regardless of their political affiliation, and the College Democrats believe every citizen has the right to vote.

In addition to prompting people to register to vote, Bernardy said events like National Coming Out Day are important because violence against minority groups is very prevalent. As an ally, Bernardy realizes that oppression is not over.

“However, that doesn’t mean I don’t contribute to an oppressive society,” Bernardy said. “That doesn’t mean that I can’t support in any way possible, people who experience hatred and violence on a daily basis.”