Some UA students celebrated National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 by taking pride in their sexual identities and sharing their true selves with friends, family members and others.
NCOD has been celebrated as an unofficial holiday across the United States since the March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights on Oct. 11, 1987. Many people each year choose to come out to friends, loved ones or social media followers on NCOD, which is a day for the celebration of openness and pride for the LGBTQ community.
Barrett Weidman, a junior, came out as pansexual to some of her family members and friends on NCOD. Weidman said she wanted to come out for a while, but never found the right time. National Coming Out Day gave her the final push she had been waiting for.
To Weidman, being pansexual means feeling attraction to people regardless of their gender. More than physical traits, she is attracted to a person’s intellect, emotional intelligence and compatibility of personality, she said.
Weidman said her close friends and her mother already knew how she identified. She took a new step by telling her grandparents and her father about her sexuality, all of whom showed an outpouring of love and support. Weidman also made an Instagram post to share her coming-out with her peers.
“It is a big weight off of my shoulders because I try to be as genuine and authentic and open as possible, and I hate lying to people,”Weidman said.
Weidman said the scariest part about coming out was her involvement in Greek Life because she didn’t know any girls who were members of the LGBTQ community in her sorority, Kappa Delta. She was nervous about being, to her knowledge, the first in her chapter to come out.
“It would have been easy for me to keep hiding it, but there were a lot of very kind people who reached out to show their support,” Weidman said.
Ren Pepitone, a professor who teaches the university’s first LGBTQ history class, said the idea of a counter-attack on homophobia was designed to create a positive and encouraging culture around coming out.
“National Coming Out Day, at least as I understand it, was the result of gay rights [activists] in the late 1980s who were meeting with homophobic backlash and anti-LGBTQ backlash,” Pepitone, who uses the pronouns they/them, said.
Bryn Deer, a freshman, came out as queer to her aunt on NCOD, although her experience was different than Weidman’s because she had been out to most of her family already. Deer said that although she came out by accident, she was glad it happened.
“We were out at breakfast and she was talking about this guy who identified as bisexual,” Deer said. “And she was saying ‘I just don’t understand it, I don’t understand how you can like boys and girls if you have never been in a relationship with a boy. And I said, ‘Well probably the same way I know I like girls even though I have never been in a relationship with one.’”
While her family members are not adamantly opposed to the LGBTQ community, and they would never disown her for being queer, they are not the most accepting. Deer said.
Being a student in the South, Deer said her experiences on campus have made her realize that her sexuality is not the norm, but it is still something she takes pride in.
“There is outright discrimination, but there are also small things where people make jokes and consider ‘gay’ to be an insult,” Deer said. “But I found some people who I have gotten to know personally who have been inclusive of me.”
Although Deer has been out to other people in her life for roughly three years, she thinks that NCOD is a great opportunity for members of the LGBTQ community to support and uplift each other. It is helpful to have a specific day for encouraging people to be who they are and show their whole selves to the world, she said.
For many students, the UofA may be their first exposure to a LGBTQ tolerant community, Pepitone said. There is a chance that being on campus is an LGBTQ student’s first opportunity to feel safe living openly, they said.
Pepitone said that although they think celebrations like NCOD – and other safe spaces for individuals to come out – are important, no one should ever feel obligated to come out or ashamed of not having done so.
“There shouldn’t ever be shame for people who don’t feel like they can safely be out or…. to present themselves as out if that doesn't feel like something that is comfortable or safe,” Pepitone said. “Or even if it feels safe and it is something they don't want to do. There is no [mandate or] expectation of declaration of someone’s heterosexuality.”