Coming Out “On the Quad”: A Heartfelt Experience For LGBTQIA+ Students and Allies
“Coming Out on the Quad” is a GSSS tradition at UIS, where a closet door is painted and decorated by staff and students who are LGBTQIA+ identified or allies. The event takes place during Queertober on the quad on the west campus. It consists of students and staff lining up to step through a door and talk about their experiences with marginalized sexual and gender identities, as well as experiences with allyship to those who hold these identities. Unfortunately, the event has been held in the student union ballroom for the past few years due to rain, but the set-up has mainly remained the same since then. This was my first “Coming Out on the Quad,” and I enjoyed it thoroughly, so I imagine the event has been similarly successful in previous years.
One of the event’s organizers, Dre Duvendack, started the event off by talking about how grateful she was to be holding the event, even though we were inside. She also spoke about how happy she was to see all of us and how important it was that we recognize the significance of showing up to the event at all. Throughout her speech, Duvendack also encouraged students to maintain the safety of the space by showing support to each speaker before and after their speeches. Finally, she reiterated the theme of Queertober, which is to “Protect Queer Youth,” which I found particularly valuable.
As the first person to pass through the door after Duvendack, I was pretty nervous. However, as I looked at familiar faces from GSSS and the diversity center, I felt the courage to talk about my experiences discovering my own place within the LGBTQIA+ community. After I spoke, I was applauded and felt the full support of everyone in the room. This experience was mirrored for people who went on to speak as well.
This event is an excellent example of GSSS and the diversity center creating spaces that achieve the goal of protecting queer youth. As Duvendack explained in her opening speech, college students are considered to be youth as well, and we need as much protection as other youth. Therefore, it is important to have events like these in order to give people a space to share their journeys and be validated by a like-minded, supportive group.
You can help protect queer youth as well by participating in other events happening during Queertober, which can be found via the link below: https://uisconnection.uis.edu/events.