Twenty-eight years ago, members of the LGBTQ+ community established National Coming Out Day, a time for celebrating coming out stories and raising awareness of the LGBTQ+ community.
In honor of National Coming Out Day, Spectrum hosted an event Oct. 14 on the L. A. Pittenger Student Center lawn, welcoming students to share their coming out stories.
Mariann Fant, Spectrum president, said the event welcomed students to share their full story while having in-person support.
"On the media, I think a lot of times, you only see like a glimpse of someone's coming out story, but here is like this area to like actually tell all of your story, if you want," Fant said. "And to get like immediate validation like in person ... if people need that, we're here for that. So I think it just like reinforces that community."
Every year participants who are willing to share their stories walk through the rainbow Spectrum door, but for the first time, participants were encouraged to sign the rainbow door after sharing.
Fant was the driving force behind this and saw it as a way for participants to have a visual representation of others who had the courage to share their story, in hopes of giving participants the courage they need to share their story, as well.
"My vision, obviously in the future is to show this so others students can be like, 'Wow, there are so many other students who have had the courage to come out and had the support to come out' and, so if anyone ever did need that visual, it would be there," Fant said.
People who are allies of the LGBTQ+ community were also invited to share their story, something that Melody Jensen, Spectrum secretary, felt was important and believes enforces their motto, "just because you're here, doesn't mean your queer."
"I think they need just the same amount of support as we do because being an ally can be very hard, and I think also coming out as an ally is important for those around that circle," Jensen said.
While society, in Fant's opinion, has become more accepting of those who have come out, she said that it's still important to recognize the importance of coming out stories.
"I think even though society has become overall more accepting, I think there's this almost, like, step back from realizing how important coming out stories are," Fant said. "I think a lot of people are like, 'Oh, yeah, who cares? I don't care, I accept you.' But on a level, that's not good either because it is still a big deal for a lot of people and if we just say, 'Oh, I don't care,' then that's not, that doesn't validate them either."
While events like National Coming Out Day empower the LGBTQ+ community, Jensen said that organizations similar to Spectrum provide students with a safe environment, while educating them on the LGBTQ+ community.
"It creates that environment that's important for those students, like myself, because I did find a lot of hate when I finally did decide from those people that I thought were closest to me. And I think it provides that space where you can be openly who you are and we're not gonna judge you for that," Jensen said. "And I think it provides that opportunity to educate the community ... It just really helps multiple people in multiple ways."