Students across campus commemorated National Coming Out Day yesterday amidst heightened national and local attention regarding the challenges facing young LGBTQ students.

In addition to a Diag rally that featured a closet door that students symbolically walked through and vigil events that took place yesterday, there are other events planned throughout the week — dubbed National Coming Out Week — including lectures regarding LGBTQ issues and Michigan’s Next Top Drag Superstar Auditions.

In the past few months there have been a rash of teen suicides that came after the victims experienced bullying based on assumed or actual sexual orientation. The trend gained heightened media attention when Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge last month after two other Rutgers students filmed him having a sexual encounter with another male and broadcast it online.

The issue of cyberbullying has also hit closer to home for the University community after Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong became the target of a blog written by a Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell, which accuses Armstrong of promoting a “radical homosexual agenda.” The University community rallied around Armstrong after the blog and Shirvell’s appearances on campus criticizing Armstrong gained national media attention.

Gabe Javier, assistant director of the Spectrum Center, said the week-long celebration coincides with the anniversary of the first march for Lesbian and Gay rights that took place in Washington, D.C. in 1979.

“This week is symbolic not just for Michigan but for people all over in the LGBTQ community,” Javier said. “We celebrate it here to really show people that it’s possible to live out happy, healthy lives and to really combat the messages of homophobia in our society.”

Javier added that even the aims to give LGBTQ rights gives supporters the chance to celebrate the variety of identities within the community.

As part of the week-long celebration, the Spectrum Center held GlowLight Vigils at Bursley Hall, the Hill area and at Regents’ Plaza to provide a “beam of hope,” for LGBTQ students and allies, in light of recently publicized suicides, according to Javier.

He said the vigil was a good first step to combating the issue of bullying and said the Spectrum Center will be working with various student groups throughout the year to make certain that school administrators and policymakers are taking a “proactive stance” to bullies.

Social Work student Gabe Radeka, co-coordinator of the vigil, said the event aimed to inspire students and provide an opportunity to show support for both students who identify as LGBTQ and community allies.

“We want to show solidarity,” Radeka said. “We want to send the message that it gets better.”

Radeka said the vigil also served to raise awareness about challenges that young people who identify as LGBTQ might face.

“It’s about resilience and honoring those who have felt like they didn’t have any other choice besides suicide,” Radeka said. “Plus it’s on National Coming Out Day so it’s also a space to think about the fact that for people coming out isn’t safe.”

The event used different mediums including music, talks and scripts to discuss bullying, pride in one’s identity and other topics.

“The idea is that it’s a serious forum,” Radeka said. “In the beginning it’s solemn and it moved towards celebration by the end.”

She added that this was the first year the vigil was held in three locations, which gave more students an opportunity to participate.

“It’s a container for people to come together and have some feelings and be inspired to do the hard work that’s ahead,” Rabeka said.

LSA freshman Alex Ngo said he found the vigil to be “really inspirational.”

“I just came out of the closet and to see so many people here who are just like me was really amazing,” Ngo said.

LSA junior Alex Brown said he found the event to be “fantastic,” adding that he thought it showed an element of campus unity.

“It was really affirming to see so many people from so many different walks of life on campus here gathered together for one common cause,” Brown said.

LSA junior Cassie Hazelip said it was an important and affirming event for the campus community.

“It’s great that so many people came out and supported the event,” Hazelip said. “I think that more events like this would be awesome, because it not only shows the support within our community but it shows the support for others that are dealing with these issues.”

LSA junior Kelsey Strait agreed, adding that the event reaffirmed her views on the University community.

“It really shows that this campus is really accepting of everything because there was such a great turnout,” Strait said. “I’m just really happy to go here and be surrounded by people who are so accepting of others.”

LSA freshman Sarah Szollar said the atmosphere was “amazing.”

“You could really feel the camaraderie and just know that you are not alone in this place,” Szollar said.

Radeka said she felt it too. As an undergraduate at the University 20 years ago, Radeka said she didn’t see as much visible support for LGBTQ students and allies as she does now.

Javier said he hopes the events will help students realize that the University is a safe place for them to be.

“Michigan is a safe place to be out in all identities, even as allies,” he said. “We need allies to be out, identified as allies of the LGBTQ community. It’s really important to us.”

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