PRIDE! celebrates National Coming Out Day

Madeleine Winer

Chants of “LGBT, equal rights for you and me,” filled the cool campus air Thursday night as members of PRIDE!Kent weaved through the streets of Kent’s campus.

Earlier that night, they covered the rock with the colors of the rainbow, a symbol of gay pride.

“There’s no reason to be afraid of anything tonight,” said freshman exploratory major Daniel Vermillion. “Be happy. Be yourself. God made you special just the way you are.”

The coming out parade, accompanied by Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out,” was part two of three events planned for National Coming Out Day, which culminated at the PRIDE meeting in the student governance chambers Thursday night.

PRIDE members split into groups and shared their coming out stories with each other.

They admitted to losing friends though the experience, their parents’ disapproval of their homosexuality and people telling them they knew they were gay.

Victoria Swarm, sophomore earth science major, came out to PRIDE announcing she didn’t know what gender she was. Swarm, along with many others, walked through a “coming-out door” provided by the LGBT Student Center, in which people wrote about their coming out experiences on one side and wrote words of well wishing on the other.

“My mom knew I was gay, she actually told me,” Swarm said. “I’m female and I don’t know if I identify as that. I’ve never committed to myself to who I was. I’ve had every insult thrown at me and have gotten kicked down for standing up for others. I know if I have a problem, I can come here, feel comfortable and safe.”

Freshman biology major Drake Bailey said Thursday’s PRIDE meeting was the first time he had told anyone he was bisexual besides close friends.

“Coming out here, I know I have joined a support group,” Bailey said. “Maybe one day I will come out to my family.”

Aaron Ritchie, freshman criminology and justice studies major, said he came out this year as a homosexual male and was criticized by his high school baseball team on Facebook and Twitter. He said his family had mixed reactions.

“I knew I was gay, but thought I was bisexual,” Ritchie said. “I met a guy this year, and we secretly started dating. I told my dad, and he was so accepting. I told my mom, and she still thinks I’m going through a phase. My step-dad didn’t talk to me for months, and when you live with someone who doesn’t acknowledge you, it really gets to you. But coming out has been the best things that has ever happened to me.”

Tim Lewis, director of programming for PRIDE, planned the events for coming out week. He said coming-out day is the most important day of the year for PRIDE and Kent’s LGBTQ community.

“It’s showing we have strength in who we are and that we support ourselves and others,” Lewis said. “It’s showing that we don’t always care what society tells us we should be. Coming out is a process of growth and being comfortable with yourself. It’s less about Kent or PRIDE!Kent. Its so much larger than our small community.”

Sophomore psychology major Courtney Thaman said National Coming Out Day helps people have support for when they’re ready to come out.

“It gives you the extra push,” she said. “If you’ve been working on it, today’s the day to do it.”

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].