National Coming Out Day is a celebration of what it means to be unapologetically queer, especially for the students at Howard University. Queer individuals have the opportunity and space to not only honor and speak on their stories, but affirm that everyone’s coming out experience is different.
Howard University’s College of Arts and Sciences HUSA Senator, Jayda N. Peets, organized a queer social hour and dinner for National Coming Out Day in the multipurpose room at College Hall South on October 11. The event was in partnership with the Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality (CASCADE), Howard University’s student LGBTQ+ organization.
CASCADE is an advocacy organization that is dedicated to making space for queer students and allies through social media, programs and discussions with faculty and peers. While the organization prioritizes educating others on LGBTQ+ experiences, its main goal is to reinforce to queer students that they are not alone and there is a community that validates their expereinces.
The event was also hosted by Laten Jordan, CASCADE VP of External Affairs and Iesha M. Daniels, the 83rd Miss Howard University.
To kick off the celebration, the hosts passed out Pride stickers to the attendees and encouraged them to introduce themselves. Introductions were followed by the hosts’ speeches in which they discussed the importance of celebrating National Coming Out Day, the need for safe spaces for queer students and their personal experiences with coming out. Anyone who wanted to share their coming out stories contributed to the conversation as well.
“There’s a pretty large queer community at Howard but where are the spaces for us to be able to gather and celebrate each other and celebrate our sexuality and our sexual orientation? There are rarely any. And so, we want to make sure that we’re creating a consistent safe space for our queer students at Howard,” Peets said.
Guests were given the opportunity to eat and mingle with one another, sharing similar experiences as queer identifying persons. With a demographic consisting of both members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies, all participants were given space to socialize and empathize with one another’s experiences.
“I think people were just so excited because there were so many freshmen and sophomores and they were so excited that there was a safe space,” said Daniels. “And then a few people had come up to me and they were like ‘I don’t know what I am but like I just know I’m not straight,’ and I was like well perfect, like this is what these environments are for, for you to talk to people so you can hear stories, so you can educate, so you can hear new terms so that you can google them at home,” she continued.
For participants such as Tereese Bowman, a sophomore sociology major and member of CASCADE, the event was significant to the comfortability and inclusivity of queer students.
Bowman shared that “not only being a part of the LGBT+ community, but being recently out and proud, this event was very important to me personally to attend. I want to connect with my community of black queer people in a safe space where we can support each other.”
Lacey Johnson, a senior sociology major, English minor and the President of CASCADE, closed the event by touching what coming out has grown to mean for queer individuals.
“The young people who are coming into Howard today I think have a very different perspective of the importance of sharing their identities with the world,” Johnson said. “There’s less of an emphasis on the importance of other people knowing who you are. It’s more important to know who you are yourself.”
To stay updated on CASCADE’s upcoming events, follow @cascade_hu on Instagram and @cascadehu on Twitter. If interested in general body membership, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to join the groupme and engage with other members.
Copy edited by Lauryn Wilson