When Harvey Mudd senior Lowell came out on National Coming Out Day in 2008, it was a coincidence. A picture of him with his high school’s Gay Straight Alliance appeared in the newspaper on that Oct. 11, and when his mom asked him about it, Lowell told her he was gay.
Four years later, Lowell (who requested his last name to be omitted) celebrated National Coming Out Day by participating in the 7C Queer Resource Center’s (QRC) week of activities as a panelist for the Coming Out Panel in HMC’s Hoch Aviation Room last Friday. The Coming Out Panel was sponsored by PRISM (People Respecting Individual Sexualities at Mudd).
“When I was little I loved Disney; I always thought Aladdin was so cute,” Lowell said. Lowell said he always knew he was gay, but it wasn’t until the seventh grade that he found a word for it.
The Coming Out Panel was just one of five activities the QRC sponsored this week in honor of National Coming Out Day. Friday there was a painting Walker Wall event. On Tuesday, the QRC’s weekly Tuesday Talk focused on coming out. Wednesday there was a reception for LGBTQ faculty, staff, and graduates, and Thursday’s event was the first of several socials planned for the year: the Gay/Bi/Queer Men’s Social at Pitzer’s Shakedown Café.
Participants at the Walker Wall painting were able to put their handprints on the wall along with their names and the date they came out.
“It was really nice seeing first-years come by, smiling and jumping right in,” said Mauricio Navarro PO ’14, who works with the QRC. “There was a lot of conversation, people stuck around. I left with the feeling everyone was glad they came.”
Each of the events was meant to recognize the national coming out celebration while increasing visibility of queer identities and making sure students know there are safe places on campus, according to Navarro. The QRC’s mission of providing education, advocacy, and support was emphasized in the activities, which built community while raising awareness and educating the public.
Naomi Bosch PO ’15, who prefers the gender neutral pronouns “ze” (he/she) and “hir” (her/him), celebrated National Coming Out Day by coming out on Facebook again to hir friends.
“For me coming out is defining myself,” Bosch said. Bosch identifies as pansexual, so Facebook’s “interested in” option of only male or female doesn’t fit hir sexuality. Instead Bosch used the Facebook status option to inform those of hir friends who didn’t know how ze identifies hirself, and linked articles to explain those identifiers.
“I love hearing different perspectives of what it’s like to be queer on campus,” Bosch said of the QRC Tuesday Talk. “There was a good variety in conversation tonight. We shared experiences and vocabulary and we all learned.”
“There’s no right or wrong way to come out,” Lowell said at Friday’s Panel Discussion. Marisa Fierro, HMC Advancement Staff Director, added that “it’s never going to follow a pattern.” But one thing all participants in National Coming Out Day activities agreed on is that it’s certainly something worth celebrating.