With the sun shining high over the Diag last Friday, more than 100 students and community members celebrated their pride and courage at the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs rally. Held at the culmination of National Coming Out Week, the event provided an opportunity for members of this extended community to unite, stand strong and offer each other support, respect and love.

Paul Wong
LSA senior Sean Izor speaks to a crowd Friday on the steps of Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library as part of the rally sponsored by the Office of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Affairs for National Coming Out Day.

LGBT Commission co-chair Jeff Souva opened the rally by declaring the day one in which people should celebrate self-love, self-acceptance, community and pride.

In a statement about the rally’s purpose, one speaker echoed Souva’s sentiment saying, “To present a message to the University and to the world that we are here, we are strong, we are smart, we are motivated and we will not take no for an answer.” Speakers at the rally discussed an array of issues – ranging from pride and solidarity to anger and frustration due to lack of funding and other resources. Representing the views of the campus administration, interim Provost Paul Courant read a statement from University President Mary Sue Coleman.

“I am proud to lead a University that values your individuality and mine. … I support you and I salute you,” Coleman said in her statement. “You bear witness to a freedom that we are all entitled to enjoy.”

The importance of standing up for oneself and others during the often difficult battle for identity and self-acceptance was also addressed by speakers.

“I’ve learned that it takes not being silent and it takes standing up for others who are silenced,” said speaker Jackie Bray, an LSA senior.

Ricardo Valle, co-chair of the LGBT People of Color Collective, said that members of the LGBT community deserve to be angry seeing the University has not met their needs. He called everyone to action by saying, “It’s time to wake up” and time for a change.

Rally participants echoed the messages of the speakers, emphasizing the significance of the day’s event.

“It is very important for us to be out and proud because that is what leads us to have more freedom and happiness,” said University Librarian Scott Dennis, who participated in the rally.

Dennis added that he was glad to see the Provost and to hear Coleman’s message, hoping that this would mark the beginning of Coleman giving the LGBT community more attention.

At the close of the rally, participants symbolically “came out” of a pink doorframe representing a closet located at the top of the stairs in front of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library.

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