On the Main Green Wednesday, students gathered around a table adorned with LGBTQ+ flags, pins, flavored popcorn and plentiful rainbow merchandise. The table’s offerings were part of the University’s National Coming Out Day celebration, hosted collaboratively by the LGBTQ Center, Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender, Student-Athlete Gay Alliance and Disability Justice Student Initiative.
Students could also take photos in front of a rainbow-colored door, which LGBTQ Center Director Caitlin O’Neill said was inspired by a popular National Coming Out Day illustration by Keith Haring.
National Coming Out Day, which was first celebrated 35 years ago, is “grounded in queer liberation and was also really intentionally a feminist movement as well,” O’Neill explained. The day emerged at a time when “people were beginning to think a lot (more about) and move towards collective actions toward HIV/AIDS.” LGBTQ+ activists Jean O’Leary and Robert Eichberg organized the day on the first anniversary of the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
According to O’Neill, the University’s celebration aims to “continue that work and provide spaces where people can be out,” which is part of the reason the event was held on the Main Green.
The University’s celebration “continues to be really salient and completely relevant even though it’s been about 35 years,” O’Neill said, adding that the event is “especially important given the political climate right now.”
Meleah Neely ’25, a gender and sexuality peer counselor and peer coordinator working at the event, said she thought tabling on the Main Green was “a really fun way to sort of remind students and allow them to feel affirmed in who they are.”
She also said the event acted as a “great opportunity to plug in the resources on campus … especially for those not out of the closet or questioning.”
Still, O'Neill stressed that “coming out can be complicated” financially or due to “loss of family (and) loss of housing” and advised community members to “do what’s healthy” for them.
Sander Moffitt ’24, who attended the event, said it made her “feel really good to be visible” as a queer individual on campus and stressed that the event was particularly important for students who may not have role models or peers who are out at home.
Moffitt said they felt “Brown is a pretty queer place” and that she “feel(s) comfortable.” The Herald’s spring 2023 poll found that 38% of respondents did not identify as straight.
O'Neill noted that there are “more people out here than ever before” and said that the LGBTQ+ Center’s recent move to Stonewall House has led to “way more participation” in its events. Community members have been “excited to find out more about LGBTQ+ and disability justice and feminist work,” they said.
Jack Tajmajer is a Metro editor who oversees the Beyond Brown beat. He is a Senior from Bethany, Connecticut and Bethlehem, New Hampshire studying Political Science and Economics. His mother operates an alpaca farm and he tried a blueberry for the first time at age 17.