October 18, 2010

Coming Out Day Wrap-Up



[Ed. Note: This year, we've decided to recap BDU and Center events with pictures and firsthand accounts. When Matt B. was unable to attend this Friday (he has yet to understand that class is optional and how to prioritize accordingly), first-year Jacob stepped up because of how being a superstar works. Thanks Jacob!]

I’m not sure if I’ll ever forget the moment when I walked through the archway and onto the Bryan Center Plaza for the first time on Coming Out Day. Thanks to Megan Weinand and all of her AMAZING work, there were rainbows everywhere—on flags, posters, balloons, pins, pens, cookies, and even tablecloths—and the energy that buzzed in my ears was so contrary to what I normally feel on campus that I couldn’t help but smile. To sum it up in a word, it was wonderful.

I spent the day flitting about between the many different tables that were on the plaza, eating skittles from the BDU table, saying hello to my friends, and offering them free pride flags and “love = love” t-shirts. But aside from the pride flags, the brochures, and the wonderful music wafting over the plaza, something so much more important was happening: I was finally beginning to get the sense that I have a family here on campus. Sometime between running to the printer in Perkins to get sign-up sheets for the BDU table and taping posters onto the trees in the plaza, or perhaps sometime between eating the rainbow-sprinkled cookies at the Jewish Center table and hugging Summer for the fifteenth time, I thought to myself this is home. I’m not sure when it hit me, and I’m not sure exactly how it did, but at some point during the day I began to feel for the first time that the enigma that is Duke University, with all of its faults and eccentricities, was something more than where I went to school.

The event was an extraordinary thing for our campus, and it was a fantastic way to show our solidarity and love, but looking back on it, I can’t help but feel that something fundamental was missing. For a day that was supposed to be about coming out, I never once heard someone say the words “I’m gay.” Yes, it was a display of our community’s pride and support, but it was only about the end result of coming out. On Coming Out Day, we celebrate the end result of being yourself, but we don’t really talk about what we’ve all been through to get there.

And I guess that’s what I want to share with you, my dear readers, and especially with those of you who are still struggling in the closet. What you saw on Coming Out Day was the end result, but don’t think that it was the whole story. Yes, you saw me strutting around the plaza celebrating who I am, but don’t think that that is something that’s always been easy for me to do. I’ve been there too; I know how dark it can be in the closet and I’ve learned how hard it is to open the door; I know how terrifying it can be to think that your friends and family would disown you if they knew who you really were; I have been through the crushing marginalization that comes with identifying as gay; and I have experienced the terror and joy that comes with first uttering the words, “Mom, Dad, I’m gay.”

So when you walk by the BC Plaza on Coming Out Day and see all of the colors, know that they symbolize not only the joy of being who you are, but also the struggles of getting there. When I celebrate on Coming Out Day, I not only celebrate who I am; I celebrate how far I’ve come as an individual, how far we’ve come as a community, and how close I’ve grown to my family here at Duke.

Come and celebrate with me.

6 comments:

  1. "So when you walk by the BC Plaza on Coming Out Day and see all of the colors, know that they symbolize not only the joy of being who you are, but also the struggles of getting there."

    *so many snaps*

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  2. Jacob...No words...I absolutely love you.

    You're getting the biggest hug when I see you, Mister! This is absolutely breathtaking.

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  3. This is such a good point-that the enthusiasm on the Plaza is reflective of a journey of varying comfort levels, and I hadn't thought of it until now. Thanks so much for bringing this up. It also makes me stop and consider all of the closeted students at Duke, and whether or not they were able to attend this year. I hope they were. =)

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  4. As a closeted student, I was so glad to have received a Love=Love t-shirt. Loved the moment I went up to a staff trying to appear like I was just looking around until she asked if I'd like a t-shirt (and what color I wanted it in) in the most natural way. Deep down it felt so good to have mustered the courage to take a step and for someone else not to seem to mind. For now, I'll wear mine when no one else is looking.

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  5. Jacob, reading this gave me goosebumps.

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