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CSULB celebrates Coming Out Day

Several organizations on campus celebrated National Coming Out Day on Wednesday with an open-mic session, a film review, open debates and an acoustic concert with alumna and singer Angie Evans to raise awareness about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community at Cal State Long Beach.

CSULB President F. King Alexander addressed the crowd gathered in front of the University Bookstore and showed support for the celebration on campus.

“We should value everybody for everything they can do for our community and build our society,” Alexander said.

The day started with an open-mic hour. Students read poetry, gave speeches and celebrated diversity.

“I think a lot of people are confused and think it’s a day for girls and guys to come out of the closet,” said Ben Cabangun, peer-health educator with Student Health Services. “It’s a national day of recognition for the struggles the gay community has gone through.”

Doug Robinson, vice president of Student Services, credits the success of National Coming Out Day to LGBT’s faculty adviser, Kirstyn Chun. He said the Resource Center has come a long way since its inception in 1989.

“We didn’t have someone like Kirstyn Chun around those days,” Robinson said. “We got more than our money’s worth with her.”

“Our hope is by having an event this big, it shows all forms of diversity are welcome at this campus,” Chun said. The Resource Center was established in 1989 around the beginning of the AIDS crisis, which demonstrated that the LGBT community needed resources on campus, she said.

Wednesday marked the 18th National Coming Out Day celebrated in the United States. Mark Shields, director of National Coming Out Day for the Human Rights Campaign, attributes the beginning to the Lesbian and Gay Rights March on Washington in 1987 and the unfurling of The NAMES Project Quilt, to commemorate all those who have died from AIDS.

“National Coming Out Day puts a real face, a human face, on LGBT,” Shields said. He said the event is more important than ever and is garnering a lot of additional attention this year.

“Every day should be coming out day,” Evans said.

She said is an alumna who majored in creative writing with a minor in women’s studies.

“I didn’t see any community of LGBT when I went there,” she said. Evans said she thinks that is all changing , starting with the turnout and support LGBT received during National Coming Out Day.

“It’s exciting to see all the people out here,” said Talia Elisa Duran, coordinator of women’s representation in LGBT. “I hope this raises awareness on the campus at large.”

“I think it’s awesome,” said Payal Pancholi, a biology major. “Everyone is just different, and whatever they are, they should be proud of it.”

“It’s grabbing attention and making people aware,” said Socorro Martinez, a marine biology major at CSULB.

Johnny Chang, computer science major, said events like National Coming Out Day on campus are really needed.

“I always have this thought in the back of my mind that people who meet me might not like me because I’m gay,” Chang said.

He notes the diversity on campus, but he said people don’t interact enough.

“I hope this event will start some kind of dialogue,” Chang said.

Following Evans’ performance, LGBT held a spirituality presentation, sponsored by the Episcopal Campus Ministry at CSULB, Beach Hillel and the United Methodist Campus Ministry.

“We believe in this radical idea that God loves everyone,” said the Reverend Julia Wakelee-Lynch, Episcopal chaplain on campus. She moderated the “Integrating Spirituality and LGBT Issues” discussion Wednesday afternoon.

The Student Health Services Resource Center also sponsored an event for National Coming Out Day. They offered information on the health benefits of living an open and honest life. They also tried to reach out to CSULB students and clarify the meaning of National Coming Out Day.

LGBT concluded the day with a party in the USU Game Room, hoping to involve more students in the celebrations.

“It’s definitely a good day,” Duran said. “I hope people see there is a presence here, a support network and it’s a safe place.”

Chun and Alexander predicted an even bigger National Coming Out Day next year.

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