LGBTQ+ students at Eastern are celebrating National Coming Out Day as a day to take pride in who they are.
Every year, Oct. 11 is recognized as National Coming Out Day. This date was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
Siobhan Doherty, a sophomore sociology major and president of EIU Pride, said coming out is an ongoing event.
“A lot of people think of (coming out) as one big event, but you have to do it every time you meet someone,” Doherty said. “It’s a lifelong process.”
Although she identifies as gay, during her sophomore year Doherty told her mom she was bisexual.
“For me, that was like a stepping stone into testing the waters of how my mom would take that as something her daughter was,” Doherty said.
Doherty said that by doing so, she does not want to invalidate bisexuality, and fully recognizes it as its own sexuality.
“At first, she told me things like, ‘No, you’re not. This is a phase,’ and things like that,” Doherty said.
Doherty went to Catholic school until eighth grade, where being gay was shown as a “that’s not us” situation.
“I finally told my mom in the worst way possible,” Doherty said. “I ended up texting her from upstairs while she was downstairs. I could hear her footsteps coming up the stairs, and she still kind of had that same attitude.”
Doherty said both of her parents are very accepting now, and even came to the ribbon cutting ceremony at Eastern this year.
“I think it’s just because they never imagined it being an issue so close to them,” Doherty said. “Once it was, it took them a minute to adjust.”
Alex Woolley, a junior 2-D studio art major, said their coming out story happened in a lot of stages of claiming different identities,
“In middle school, I came out to my close friends and told them I was gay,” Woolley said.
In high school, Wooley transitioned into a new stage, and they decided they just wanted to identify as queer, not necessarily homosexual.
“I decided to come out to my family then,” Woolley said. “I was having dinner with my sister, and it was brought up. She asked me, ‘So, you’re not straight?’ When I told her, she responded, ‘I just wanted to make sure. You’d never explicitly said.’”
Woolley then decided to explicitly tell their mother, who took it well.
“At first, she asked if I was serious, and when I told her I was, she was just like, ‘Okay,’” Woolley said. “We talked about it later and laughed it off.”
Jovan Williams, a freshman music performance major, said his coming out story was a very big moment.
“I was a dancer and choreographer for this company at my school,” Williams said. “We were doing this piece about who we are, and I wanted the dancers to use props. I ended up using whiteboards.”
Williams himself was a performer, and he wrote “I’m gay” on his whiteboard. On opening night, his parents were in the audience.
“They had no idea, but I felt like it was a good way to tell them,” Williams said.
Woolley said National Coming Out Day is not just for individuals who have come out. It is an opportunity to reflect on how fortunate some of us are to feel safe, while others may not have that ability.
“People who haven’t come out yet are just as much queer or just as much trans as every other member of the community,” Woolley said.
Travis Moody can be reached at 518-2816 or at [email protected]