By Sydney Fairbanks
National Coming Out Day, a holiday that supports members of the LGBTQ community, was celebrated Oct. 11. This year, organizations at Youngstown State University celebrated the day with carnival-themed activities.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the first Coming Out Day happened in 1988 on the one-year anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The event was organized by Jean O’Leary and Robert Eichberg to celebrate members of the LGBTQ community ‘coming out of the closet.’
The phrase ‘coming out of the closet’ comes from the phrase ‘skeletons in the closet,’ meaning to keep a secret because of social stigmas. In the 1960’s many covert men thought of their sexuality as a sort of skeleton in their closet.
That phrase, mixed with the tradition of young women ‘coming out’ to society at debutante balls in the early 20th century, birthed the idea of LGBTQ people ‘coming out of the closet’ when they reveal their sexuality.
Rayvin Gorrell, president of YSUnity, says that the Coming Out Day celebration can help LGBTQ students — whether their identities are public or not —realize there is a safe space for them.
“There may be students who are not out yet, and seeing that there are people who are out of the closet and celebrating who they are and being who they want to be is a good thing. They may feel more comfortable to see that we’re participating in these events on campus,” Gorrell said.
Student Activities partnered with local LGBTQ-friendly resources such as Full Spectrum Community Outreach Center and Dot Lou. YSUnity, Campus Recreation, YSU Student Counseling Services, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the Office of the Dean of Students were also involved in planning the events.
Attendees participate in basket raffles, spin prize wheels, and pet baby chickens and ducks. Students also painted the rock and made crafts like tote bags and blankets.
There was a door students could sign and take pictures with to signify coming out of the closet. Fitting in with the carnival theme, the slogan for this year’s celebration was “come one, come all, be you.”
Gorrell said the Coming Out Day event is important to the LGBTQ community because it’s one of the only events that celebrates the community besides Pride Month, which is celebrated in June.
“It’s really nice to have something that is on campus and visible, and people can see it and be part of it,” Gorrell said.
Despite being Coming Out Day, students did not have to be part of the LGBTQ community to benefit from and celebrate the day.
Jordan Record, a graduate assistant in Student Activities, said that the emphasis of this event was for students to feel comfortable and have a safe space whether they are out of the closet or not.
“National Coming Out Day is all about celebrating the queer community, and really just allowing those people — whether they are out or not — to celebrate who they are and know that they are in a safe space,” Record said.
YSUnity is open to anyone who wants to learn more about the LGBTQ community or needs a safe space to chat.