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National Coming Out Day

By Danae Moksnes

October 11 is National Coming Out Day, a date to celebrate those in the LGBTQIA+ community coming out of the closet. This is a day of solidarity and celebration for people in the LGBTQIA+ community, recognizing the importance and struggle of a person “coming out of the closet,” or being open about how they identify.

In years past, The Phoenix Club at Bemidji State has held National Coming Out Day Panels. This is where those in the club and/or in the LGBTQIA+ community would talk about their coming out stories and hold a discussion about the struggles of being open about one’s sexuality. The Phoenix Club is the Gay Student Alliance on campus, which gives students a safe place to be open about who they are and finding an accepting community. One student, that chose to remain anonymous, was open to sharing their experience coming out as non-binary to themselves and to others:

“For me, It was building up for a long time. It came as little moments, throughout many years. Then when I figured it out, I thought about my words. I almost wrote it down, just so I knew my words were right. I was so scared about coming out to my closest friends. Some people were more than okay with it, like my friends, cousins, and boyfriend. But others were not so accepting.”

What helped this student get through the tough times of coming out of the closet was their friends. “The good ones, the ones who were there for me outweighed the bad ones”. As they talked about their experience, they showed how important finding an accepting community was to them.

The pandemic has made it difficult to find such a community in the summer and for The Phoenix to hold its meetings. With no in-person meetings and many students choosing to participate in distance learning away from campus, keeping up a feeling of community has been more difficult, but not impossible. This student shared that they found a community through different social media sites, and joining group chats on sites like Discord. “In the Discord chat, I can talk with people like me. I can post pictures and receive some affirmation. I can get advice on different things, and I can learn about new things about my community as well.”

Though the world has changed since the last National Coming Out Day, there are still many ways to celebrate and find a safe space online. The Phoenix Club can be found and contacted through BeaverLink, and The Human Rights Campaign website has many online resources. It has advice on coming out, along with testimonies that can help people find comfort in the struggles, awkwardness and excitement that comes with being open about who they are. The Trevor Project is another resource that helps LGBTQIA+ youth, and has a 24 hour suicide prevention hotline.

Celebrating National Coming Out day is something very important to the LGBTQIA+ community, as shared by the student: “It is the time where we can be proud of who we are, and it is a reminder of the real person I was meant to be. When I came out, it was a day I was finally truly myself.”

Although pandemic continues, there are communities that can help students feel safe, even if they are online. The Phoenix Club is a community available for LGTBQIA+ individuals and allies with the intended purpose of a safe and open environment.

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

BSU Health and Counseling Information: (218) 755-2053