Annual National Coming Out Day Rally promotes celebration of identity

Sergeant Christopher McGee, TUPD's LGBT Liaison, speaks during the National Coming Out Day Rally on the Lower Campus Center Patio on Oct. 8, 2014. Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

The annual National Coming Out Day Rally, which gives students an opportunity to discuss their personal experiences with gender and sexuality is taking place on the Lower Campus Center Patio this afternoon.

According to Abigail Mendez, a Team Q Peer Leader at the LGBT Center, today’s rally will feature a variety of speakers, including Humanist-in-Residence Walker Bristol, faculty members and students from LGBT Center discussion groups. The event will also have an open-mic portion, in which members of the audience can choose to spontaneously participate, she said.

“This is something that is really great, and what usually happens is people in the audience who feel like they want to speak at the event can just…say what they want to say in front of the audience,” Mendez, a senior, said. “It’s a really nice, more flexible schedule at the end.”

Attendees at the rally also have access to free rainbow flags to support the Pride Flag Campaign, pins, buttons and safe sex supplies, she said.

The rally is held in conjunction with National Coming Out Day, celebrated each year on Oct. 11 and “which [promotes] a safe world for LGBT individuals to live truthfully and openly,” according to the Human Rights Campaign website.

Mendez, who works on the outreach and education branch of Team Q, helped to coordinate the event along with student groups on campus. She said that the event proves to be a positive result of collaboration between groups on campus.

Bruce Bausk, a Team Q Peer Leader and a member of the Tufts Queer Students Association (QSA), said QSA was one of the groups who were part of the rally planning process.

“We are helping organize the National Coming Out Day Rally a little bit and providing Team Q with funds to help make this event come together,” Bausk, a senior, said.

He explained that QSA has recently been restructured, so it can help support other queer groups on campus.

“This is an example of QSA functioning in that format,” Bausk said.

According to Bristol, the Tufts Chaplaincy also likes to have a presence at the rally to convey its support for the LGBT community.

“The Chaplaincy…has wanted to have a presence at the rally, because…we very much see ourselves as part of the grander caregiving network,” Bristol, who is Tufts’ first humanist chaplain, said.

According to Bausk, both the rally and the work done by LGBT groups on campus bring together people from a variety of experiences and identities.

“I think that, historically, the National Coming Out Day Rally is a space where people have gotten up to speak about their sexual identities and their gender identities,” Bausk said. “But at this event we, of course, welcome anyone to share any stories that they feel are coming out in a sense, however that is defined for the individual.”

Mendez echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of making students feel welcome at the event.

“There is a difference between the people who feel very comfortable doing this kind of coming out specifically for a coming out event and [the] people who maybe aren’t comfortable coming out yet,” Mendez said. “So we try to keep that in mind when we’re planning the event.”

Mendez added that it is never too late for students to get involved with the LGBT Center.

“Even if you don’t go to the discussion groups or to LGBT Center events at the beginning of the semester, the Center is still open, and it is always…inclusive [of] people who want to come to these events,” she said. “We love having discussions and learning from each other. [We] are really just continuously trying to foster an inclusive, exploratory, accepting environment.”

Bausk said that the emphasis on inclusivity is mirrored in the way that LGBT groups on campus look at the National Coming Out Day Rally.

“We encourage people to come out at their own pace…and…they are also welcome to get involved with the Center or with any groups at their own pace,” Bausk said. “We are an open space for everyone, whenever.”