When coming out, students gain acceptance, history

National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an important day for many students at Oswego State. While the act of coming out to anyone is not an easy task, everyone has different stories and experiences.

Sophomore sociology major Troy LaFave’s story is a special one. When he was a junior in high school, LeFave first told his best friend, who accepted him for who he was. After that, LeFave started telling his other friends, who were also very accepting, making him feel more comfortable in the process.

“For the most part, my friends were very accepting, but my parents were a little distraught,” LeFave said.

NCOD is an annual event in the United States and other countries, including Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Croatia, Poland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. NCOD started in 1988 and has been recognized since 1990. Oswego State has been officially celebrating the day since 1991. Every year, NCOD is celebrated on Oct. 11, because that marks the anniversary of the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

One NCOD tradition on campus is wearing Coming Out or Ally shirts. On Oct. 11, 2010, thousands of students all over campus celebrated the day by wearing the NCOD red shirts.

“By making the shirts one color, it creates a visual unitizing factor between all students for one day, making us truly all ‘one,’” said Pride Alliance member Marian Holmes.

Last year, Pride Alliance ordered 2,300 shirts, and all were given away. The order for this year is the same, with the hopes that the shirts, the color of which remain a secret until the day of the event, will be just as popular. The Pride Alliance has records of the shirts being used for at least nine years.

NCOD is one of the most anticipated events of the year for the Pride Alliance. Students begin emailing the organization during the first week of school to see when the shirts would be available to order and when they will be handed out.

“Seeing 2,300 of these shirts worn proudly on October 11 makes an excellent statement about awareness, acceptance, love and, most importantly, pride,” Alliance president Katy Van Houtte said.

The Pride Alliance started on campus in 1981 and was called the Gay and Lesbian Alliance. The club was formed “in response to the mounting tensions in the LGBT community in that time period,” Van Houtte said. Since that time, the organization has gone through many name and identity changes.

Active Minds, a new organization on campus, is there to help students with the stresses of coming out.

“Coming out is great, we’re here to help ease the transition,” said junior Faith Page, an Active Minds fundraising chair.

Active Minds became an official club in December 2010, but did not start doing work until last semester, making this the club’s first NCOD. On Oct. 11, at 7 p.m., Active Minds is holding a panel to discuss coming out and to help students feel at ease. The panel is designed to get people to understand coming out and to help get more people on campus to become allies.

“We’d love to see back and forth discussion,” Page said.

Over the summer, New York state legalized same-sex marriage. The law was passed on June 24 and went into effect one month later.

“It’s good that the law passed, but it’s kind of disappointing that it took this long,” LaFave said.

Other students share their mixed feelings.

“I personally know several peers who took this as an opportunity to come out to many members of their family and friend groups… I also know a few who proposed that night and made their marriages official soon after in fear that the law would be repealed within the upcoming year,” Holmes said. “I think that the legalization of marriage in our state will give a lot of people the courage to finally step out of the closet and truly be themselves.”

No matter what the opinions of the population are, students at Oswego State are generally accepting.

“We rarely experience problems with protest during this event” Van Houtte said.