Coming Out Week has taken over Youngstown State University’s Kilcawley Center. The rock has been painted, information tables and lectures have been held and a few more events are yet to come. Tim Bortner, the president of YSUnity, hopes students will participate in the annual event.
“This is something that we do every year, and it’s been going on since the early 2000s, maybe even the ‘90s. It’s a week of events geared towards the LGBTQIA community. Allies are welcome as well, it’s not just the LGBT community,” Bortner said.
The week kicked off Monday with a Coming Out Closet, consisting of a door that was placed in the main hall of Kilcawley Center from which students would emerge with white boards describing their sexual orientation in tow.
Through thought-provoking events like the Coming Out Closet, Bortner hopes students’ awareness of LGBT issues will increase.
“It’s to create awareness and education on campus, so that’s why we have educational seminars and workshops. We also have things to celebrate coming out and being yourself, and we also have just plain old goofy events. Everyone is invited to attend these events. We’re supportive of anyone so you’re welcome to attend,” Bortner said.
YSUnity has promoted awareness during Coming Out Week in a variety of ways, including an organizational fair that contained numerous support groups from the area, a BRAVO anti-violence workshop, a Equality Ohio Speaker and representatives from the Ohio equal rights campaign. A speaker from Get REAL, an organization from Canada, spoke on Tuesday about bullying and harassment in schools.
For many, this week is about the struggles of the LGBTQIA community, and ways in which the community can be supported. Corey Seitz, a general studies major, hopes the events will better illuminate the struggles of those coming out about their sexuality.
“The purpose of Coming Out Week is to educate everyone on the struggle that it is to come out. There are a lot of fears that someone of the gay community has — one of which is a fear of rejection from friends and family, and another key fear is the fear of one’s own personal safety and wellbeing,” Setiz said. “I feel like this week is suppose to educate everybody on those challenges that someone who is LGBT has to face and go through, to actually get more people on board so we can have more rights and more protections for working opportunities, educational opportunities and our basic civil rights.”
There are still plenty of events to participate in this week, including two larger events at the week’s close.
“The biggest event that I would highlight this week would be the NOH8 photo shoot on Thursday, and the Diversity Prom on Friday,” Seitz said.
Thursday there is a NOH8 photo shoot on the first floor of Kilcawley from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The NOH8 photo shoot includes participating students, dressed totally in white, being photographed against a white backdrop while wearing tape across their mouths reading “NOH8.” There will also be a Transgender and Bisexual discussion from 5-7 p.m. in the Jones Room of Kilcawley Center.
Wrapping up the week on Friday will be a YSUnity information table from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first floor of Kilcawley, and the 2nd Annual Diversity Prom takes place Friday night from 7-10 p.m. in the Chestnut Room. Tickets are $5 in advance and $6 at the door.