“The goals of Coming Out Day at Harvard are to increase visibility and to increase awareness,” said Joshua D. Smith ’08, the political chair of Harvard’s Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters’ Alliance (BGLTSA).
BGLTSA board members covered the table with information packets, rainbow ribbons, and two posters—one for BGLT students to sign, titled “Out and Proud,” and one for allies to sign, titled “We support our queer peers.” When the board members closed up shop at 2:00 p.m., each poster had about 40 signatures.
“We don’t have massive anti-gay protests,” said Noa Grayevsky ’07, the BGLTSA Community Chair, “but at the same time, there aren’t hoards of people coming to sign our posters.”
By this morning, BGLTSA board members had distributed information packets to the door of every student in the College. “There’s a lot of power in door dropping,” Grayevsky said. “A lot of work goes in to it because it’s the best way to get information to every person who goes to this school.”
Held annually on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day was founded in 1988 to commemorate the march on Washington for gay and lesbian rights. “Talk About It” was this year’s theme.
“We recognize that a lot of people don’t know that it’s Coming Out Day,” said Emma L. Beavers ’06, the BGLTSA Public Relations Chair. “We’re here to show support and to provide a place where people who do want to come out can do that.”
“It’s not just that people come out,” said Cheryl Jacques, a former Massachusetts State Senator, current Institute of Politics fellow, and national gay civil rights advocate. “It’s that people come in. And what I mean by that is that straight allies join the fight. This is not just a gay person’s fight; this is every person’s fight.”
Mischa A. Feldstein ’07, the BGLTSA co-chair, stressed the importance of providing information on Coming Out Day. “The most important part about National Coming Out Day is just that people know where they can go for support—places like Contact, the peer counseling service, and the BGLTSA,” he said. “We have to make sure people know we’re here for them. It’s about visibility—making sure that people coming out have a place to do it.”
Harvard University Health Services clinicians will be attending training sessions on BGLT issues today, and there will be a BGLT booth at today’s health fair, according to Keli M. Ballinger, Manager of the Center for Wellness and Health Communication.
“We can and should try to hold on to and promote this awareness every day,” Ballinger wrote in an e-mail. “I think the significance can be extended from this day to the 364 others in which we can have a positive effect. Hopefully, we as a community are doing something every day to support everyone in this community in ways that each individual feels welcome and safe.”