Oct. 11 marks the 28th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, a day geared toward the celebration of the coming-out experiences of LGBT youth across the country.
IU’s GradQueers, a social group for queer-identified graduate students and young professionals, and the Back Door are cooperating to celebrate local coming-out stories at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
“The Queer Condition: A Night of Coming Out Stories” invites any members of the LGBT community and allies to share coming-out stories from their own lives. Don Dumayas, a first-year graduate student coordinating the event with GradQueers, said this is the first event of its kind he has heard of.
“I listen to ‘The Moth,’ which is like a storytelling podcast, and I liked the idea of people just going onstage and telling their coming-out stories,” Dumayas said. “I really want it to be about showing the diversity of the community as well as the diversity of coming out.”
The decision to arrange the event at the Back Door was two-fold, Dumayas said.
“The Back Door has been the venue GradQueers worked with before, and, when I contacted them, they were very enthusiastic and supportive of the idea,” Dumayas said. “It’s also the only venue in town that caters directly to the LGBTQ community.”
Doug Bauder, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Support Services office director, said National Coming Out Day began during the National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights almost 30 years ago and exemplifies an initiative started by young people that made it to the national level and stayed public.
Getting together and uniting with the goal of sharing stories has the ability to spark larger conversations, Bauder said.
“I think storytelling or sharing is by far the most effective way to bring about social change whatever issue we’re talking about — domestic violence, racism or homophobia,” Bauder said.
Students and community members interested in reading their stories at the event were required to send them in for review. Dumayas said the range of stories he has read in anticipation for the event is vast.
“I’ve heard amusing stories from one person saying, ‘My coming-out story is that I told my mom I was a lesbian before she went to therapy so she would have something to talk about,’” Dumayas said.
Some stories were more serious in tone, such as that of one student who said coming out to his family was a difficult process, but it was one that ended in a sort of healing with his mother.
Dumayas said one student’s perspective stood out because of its departure from the rest of the submissions.
“I liked his perspective of coming out as an ongoing process,” Dumayas said. “When he was traveling, he had to come out to people multiple times.”
Second-year Ph.D. student Danielle Hernandez is a graduate assistant at the GLBTSSS office and is organizing a National Coming Out Day project, a cardboard box closet to be decorated in front of the GLBT office during the day Tuesday.
Hernandez said coming out is a constant process and every year’s national day offers another opportunity to share those personal stories.
“The first time I learned that it was a thing, I used it,” Hernandez said. “I came out to my mother, which to me was my big coming-out. Another thing that National Coming Out Day reminds people of is that it’s not a one-time thing. It’s a process. You have many coming-out days in your life. It happens every year to give you the opportunity to reflect on that.”
Dumayas said he hopes LGBT students and allies attend the event to gain an appreciation for the wide breadth of stories out there and hopefully to find a community within the groups and individuals they hear from.
“I didn’t want coming out to seem so black and white. Either your family and friends accept you or don’t,” Dumayas said. “I wanted to show that coming out comes in so many colors. Even if you do struggle with acceptance from your family members, hearing about an experience from someone else may give you some hope that things might improve.”
Bauder, who will also speak at the event, said every day should be treated as a coming-out day and the emphasis on story should carry on throughout the year.
“While I think it’s important to emphasize the matter of telling one’s stories, we should be doing that every day,” Bauder said. “I value the impetus or emphasis on telling stories, but you can’t make people do that — the timing and setting has to be right. You can’t set a day aside for people to do that. It’s much more effective if you sense, ‘This is the right day to do this for my parents or my roommates or my wife.’”
The goals of the event include creating a known space for the graduate student LGBT community, Dumayas said.
“One of the most important things is creating visibility within IU and Bloomington,” Dumayas said. “We want to show that we’re here. It’s also my hope that someone who’s struggling to come out who comes to the show might be able to find their niche within our community.”
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