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Harvard Celebrates Coming Out Day With Rainbow Cake, New Resource Guide for BGLTQ Students

Director of BGLTQ Student Life
On Feb. 6, 2017, Sheehan D. Scarborough became the permanent Director of BGLTQ Student Life.
As Harvard students marked National Coming Out Day with rainbow bandanas and pride pins, the College’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life and the University’s Title IX Office debuted a guide meant to keep affiliates up-to-date on campus resources for BGLTQ-identifying individuals.

The two-page guide — now permanently housed on the Title IX Office’s website — provides information about University offices and student groups that work to address issues related to gender, sexuality, and diversity.

Title IX administrators Nicole M. Merhill and Rachel A. DiBella said administrators developed the guide to help BGLTQ students identify resources available to them at the University. Merhill said disparities between Harvard’s schools can present a challenge for students seeking guidance.

Members of campus group One Queer Harvard had raised concerns about the accessibility of campus offerings for BGLTQ students in meetings with Merhill and DiBella earlier this year.

Ph.D. student Andrew A. Westover, who attended the meetings and helped develop the resource guide, wrote in an email that he hopes the guide will help “Harvard will become an institution where LGBTQ+ students, staff, and faculty are more fully included.”

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“Some schools, like Harvard Medical School and the College, have dedicated staff who support LGBTQ+ students; other schools have no such positions,” he wrote. “While the College has a dedicated space for LGBTQ+ students, graduate students lack their own affinity space.”

DiBella said the document released Thursday will serve as the basis for a more comprehensive resource sheet slated to be released in the spring, as well as a jumping-off point for further work.

“This document is a way of reflecting to the community wherein the collaborations lie, where we aspire to further partnerships in those collaborations, and also will drive folks who receive the one-pager to a broader, more longform list,” DiBella said.

Pride Cake
HUDS served cake in the residential dining halls decorated with rainbow pride flags Thursday night.
The collaboration between the two offices formed part of Harvard’s plethora of National Coming Out Day programming. Sheehan D. Scarborough ’07, who heads the BGLTQ Office, said the day’s events were meant to celebrate the coming out experience and to shed light on “the difficulty and the challenges that come with being visible.”

“The BGLTQ office [wants] to create a space for students to share their experiences around outness and non-outness: how they navigate that here on campus, how they’ve done that before even arriving at Harvard, and what that can look like — self-acceptance and the courage it takes to arrive at that place,” he said.

Scarborough’s office partnered with Harvard University Dining Services to place rainbow sheet cakes in campus dining halls at Thursday dinner. The BGLTQ Office also joined with the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response to run a “Yoga for Restoration” class.

The day’s programming culminated in a open mic event held Thursday evening in the Barker Center in partnership with spoken-word group Speak Out Loud. At the event, BGLTQ office interns Cahleb E. Derry ’20 and Natalie J. Gale ’21 said the holiday can often be challenging.

“One’s process of coming out can be continual, ever-changing, and personal, and not everyone can afford to come out emotionally, physically, financially, and/or spiritually,” Derry said. “On National Coming Out Day we want to honor the many ways we may embrace and/or grapple with our BGLTQ identities.”

— Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at shera.avi-yonah@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @saviyonah.

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