IMPACT and Career and Leadership Development (CLD) hosted a National Coming Out Day celebration in the Warhawk Connections Center on Thursday, Oct. 10, which featured keynote speaker Jacob Tobia.
Tobia spoke about their experience with gender identity and hosted a gender workshop after the event, all in celebration of National Coming Out Day.
“It’s a space for everyone who wants to come to feel safe and have a sense of belonging because the process of coming out can be very difficult,” said Evan Towns.
Towns is the graduate assistant for the PB Poorman Pride Center. He began working in this role this year but worked as an RA for the Purple Pride learning community as a senior undergraduate. Towns assisted IMPACT and CLD with bringing in Tobia and organizing the event.
“[The day] is there to celebrate a difficult situation,” Towns said. “I think it’s a good reminder that some people don’t have that opportunity or that space to come out, but it’s a reminder that there is going to be a point where you hopefully will be able to come out and accept yourself.”
Not only is National Coming Out Day a safe space for students and a celebration of identity, but the PB Poorman Pride Center is also a resource for students on campus.
“The PB Poorman Pride Center provides LGBTQ & ally students with a physical space to come together and decompress. We host educational events, provide much needed LGBTQ resources, and celebrate the accomplishments of LGBTQ students,” said Stephanie Selvick.
Selvick is the LGBT* Coordinator at UW-W. Before coming to Whitewater, she was the Assistant Professor of World Literature in New York, where she taught gender and sexuality studies and advised the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).
Tobia’s talk inspired and educated many attendants of the event, even faculty.
“I particularly appreciated Jacob Tobia’s stories as they demonstrated that the coming out experience varies by individual and can be both liberating and heartbreaking,” said Ashley Barnes-Gilbert.
Barnes-Gilbert is a lecturer in Women’s and Gender Studies at UW-W. She believes that National Coming Out Day is a way to both celebrate LGBTQ+ experiences and also recognize discrimination.
Inspirations like Tobia and organizations like IMPACT are great reminders that even if someone is unable to come out currently, they will one day be able to live their truth and celebrate being a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
LGBTQ+ students are able to celebrate National Coming Out Day as a day that reminds people to always embrace who they are.