The sun sets on a cool afternoon, the Wallace-Dutra Amphitheater slowly fills with students. The entrance greets students with the California Gay Flag, Genderqueer, Transgender, Pansexual, Bisexual and Asexual Flags flying in the wind. Lambda Alliance sets up the stage for their National Coming Out Day Vigil.
National Coming out day is a nation wide celebration celebrating members of the LGBTQ+ community and the concept of coming out to yourself and others, if you so wish. The history of this celebration traces back to the 2nd of March on Washington which took place in 1987 where over 100 queer activists gathered. This historic event brought to light several issues and injustices against the LGBTQ+ community and gave rise to several organizations including the National Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organization (LLGÓ) and AT&T’s LGBTQ+ employee group, LEAGUE. The months following the March activists realized that instead of acting defensively against Anti-LGBT actions, the community should have a day to celebrate coming out and chose the second anniversary of the March on Washington to serve as the date.
This is Lambda Alliance’s fourth year hosting the event to remember those who were silenced before or during their coming out experience as well as embrace one’s identity. Participants would go up to the podium and share their personal stories or stories written out by others who were not able to share their stories.
“It’s to recognize that coming out is still a thing to do in a heteronormative society,” said Brandon Baldomero, one of the Lambda Alliance officers. “This event was also a vigil for those who were not able to come out, or died doing so and to inspire others.”
Participants of many backgrounds and cultures took the time to go up to the podium and share their stories and experiences of coming out to themselves or those closest to them. The stories were intimately told, ranging from worrisome, hopeful, hurtful, relief, but always heartfelt with a loving response from the immediate community.
While describing the feel of the event, Juan Gomez, another Lambda Officer said, “it was different that it wasn’t as open because of 2020 [blocking the fountain], but the sense of community was still there.”
The values given by this event help pave the way for future generations, in saying that they don’t have to come out. Lambda recognized that those comfortable came out today to have LGBTQ+ voices heard in a heteronormative and hetero-dominant culture; however, they identified that the culture they are striving for is one in which individuals would not have to “come out” because all identities will be equally welcomed. Lambda recognized that many individuals today cannot safely come out due to their circumstances. The event also served as a reminder that coming out should not be taken for granted, especially because there are others who cannot do the same. It is so that future generations can be part of the LGBTQ+ community with equal rights, affirmation, and a celebration of identity
This event gives members of the LGBTQ+ community the safe space that they need while allowing them to celebrate themselves in a world of heteronormativity and constant ostracization. Lambda Officer Ricardo shared with us, “It helps people feel empowered and might encourage people towards coming out and brings awareness towards the LGBTQ community…it’s impactful because it shows that we aren’t just going to hide ourselves, we are going to be out in the open.”
Events like these that allow people to share their stories not only give people the confidence that they may need to come out to themselves and possibly others but it can also allow them to heal from the negative experiences that they had faced. It is a demonstration of solidarity since everyone in the community was there to support and encourage each other.
Authors: Valezka Murillo & Anjeliko Garcia
Photo Credit: Anjeliko Garcia