Tiny rainbow flags lined the paths leading to the Science Center yesterday afternoon for the Harvard Queer Students and Allies observance of National Coming Out Day, a day intended to promote awareness of LGBT rights issues.
The twenty-second annual observance of National Coming Out Day yesterday came with the added weight of recent tragedies affecting LGBT citizens nationwide. The last month alone has seen at least eleven suicides by youth who were harassed because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as several hate crimes against LGBT individuals, including one at Harvard.
“National Coming Out Day has additional meaning this year because of what’s happening around the country,” said QSA Political Co-Chair Ben Biran ’13, who kneeled on the grass coloring in a sign stating “God Bless the Gays” as he spoke.
“We already enjoy privileges and rights that past generations couldn’t dream of, and we have to acknowledge the people who have sacrificed so much for us to be where we are now,” he said, pausing from his coloring. “Still, we’re not quite there yet. It’s very important that we create a safe environment and reach out to people who feel different to make them feel like they have family, and to show them that it’s okay to be gay.”
QSA Co-Chair Marco Chan ’11 emphasized that although it is important to get the message of acceptance across, coming out is not always an option for everyone.
“If you want to be out, there’s a whole community that is out, happy, and proud, but we’re here to support members of the community wherever they are in their coming out process,” he said, adding that the most important point was that people should be able to express their identities in the way that makes them the most comfortable.
“National Coming Out Day is about remembering the harm of being in the closet, but it’s also about recognizing that we all have the agency to make it different,” Chan said.
Political co-chair Lucy C. O’Leary ’12 added that claiming agency is especially significant in a time marked by acts of violence, as the last few weeks have been.
“All the recent suicides are incredibly tragic, but they’ve brought a lot of attention to the cause,” said O’Leary, whose hands were busy making origami cranes, which she explained as a traditional symbol of peace and remembrance of death.
“I feel like we’re at the crux of something big, and it’s an important time to speak out,” she added, explaining that in light of the recent events, members of the QSA have organized a group to advocate for the consolidation of resources for the queer community on campus. This group will work in conjunction with the students involved in an LGBT working group announced by Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds last week.
In addition to this political direction, said O’Leary, QSA is endeavoring to rally support from the larger community by planning acts that will be visible on campus, starting with a “Speak Out” rally to raise awareness about violence against LGBT youth and a candlelight vigil to remember the most recent victims of violence, both to be held today.
As the QSA students worked on coloring their signs and folding cranes, tourists passing by stopped to stare.
“This isn’t what I expected to see visiting Harvard,” said one who had stopped to ask for directions. “It’s good to see someone is taking a stand.”
—Staff writer Alice E.M. Underwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.