From October 6 to 10, the University of Rhode Island’s LGBTQ Center will be hosting its third annual Coming Out week, a five-day long event honoring students’ and faculty’s decision to “come out” as a member of LGBTQ community, as well as show support for those who do not yet feel ready.
Since October is LGBT History month and October 11 is National Coming Out Day, the community created Coming Out week to recognize the importance of this time of year and what LGBTQ people experience on a daily basis.
The week begins with a community breakfast where members of the community will gather to discuss the upcoming week. In addition, around four free and public events are hosted each day by the LGBTQ Center addressing this year’s theme: Identity in Motion: Fluid Futures, which is meant to emphasize awareness of non binary genders, neither male nor female.
New programs and opportunities to get involved include an Advanced Safe zone track, Make Your Mark with Makeup Workshop and URI’s very first Drag Ball, the final event of the week where Jujubee from Season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race and a drag king performance troupe, All the King’s Men, will make an appearance. The programs are a combination of fun and educational, highlighting important topics such as safe sex, active HIV testing and gender identity awareness.
Also on Friday, the day before National Coming Out Day, LGBTQ will partner with Gay Straight Alliance to host a Coming Out Door, where students will be able to both physically and emotionally “come out” to their community through a door, donated by South Kingstown Home Depot,that will be placed on the quad.
“We like to encourage people to come out as whatever is important to them,” Annie Russell, director of the LGBTQ Center said. “It’s powerful when you give voice to who you are in an authentic way, regardless of what that means. Â It absolutely brings awareness to our community, but also puts some knowledge out there.”
The week-long event is also open to students and members of the community outside of URI; flyers are sent to neighboring Rhode Island colleges and Boston youth organizations to welcome LGBTQ members who may not have access to the community at their own school.
Although the coming out door has been happening for many years, Coming Out week is fairly new and has had a large impact on URI students in the community since it was created three years ago. The events compliment each other to provide students opportunities to feel valued and supported by their community. Russell shared a story where a URI student came out as bisexual for the first time after attending the very first Coming Out Week and realizing the amount of support around her at URI, as well as the ability to be herself without fearing any recourse.
“Anytime a student, faculty or staff member says anything like that, that’s what makes what we do worth everything,” Russell said.