Students hold vigil during National Coming Out Day


Noah Frick-Alofs/The Daily Northwestern

Weinberg junior Yamari Lewis speaks at The Rock on Tuesday at a vigil held in honor of lives lost to violence against the LGBTQ community. Attendees shared coming out stories and perspectives on part of the LGBTQ community at Northwestern.

Mariana Alfaro, Web Editor

Students gathered at The Rock on Tuesday afternoon to honor the lives lost to violence against LGBTQ people and to celebrate the solidarity that exists in the community at Northwestern, organizers said.

The vigil — held annually during NU’s Rainbow Week — was planned for the same day as National Coming Out Day. Nine students and Multicultural Student Affairs assistant director JT Turner attended the gathering, where they shared coming out stories and perspectives on being a member of the LGBTQ community at NU.

During the vigil, Weinberg junior Yamari Lewis said although coming out is a big and impactful moment in a queer person’s life, the community must remember that there are many people in the world who can’t come out for fear of being judged or because society doesn’t understand them.

Lewis, a member of Rainbow Alliance’s programming committee, said it is lucky that the school, state and country are places where people are more accepting of the LGBTQ community, compared with less-accepting societies. She said although the community must mourn the lives lost to violence and societal pressures, they should also celebrate the lives of those who are able to be who they want to be without feeling alienated or attacked.

“This event is important because it’s one of those days when we’re able to come together in solidarity,” Lewis told The Daily. “We have to understand that it’s a spectrum: there are people that are out; there are people that are in the process, people that will never be out.”

The vigil is a staple of Rainbow Week, a time for students to reflect on the different situations members of the LGBTQ community face, recognize their strengths and come together as a community, Lewis told The Daily.

Turner — who uses “they/them/their” pronouns — told The Daily they were happy students were able to commemorate Coming Out Day this way.

“It’s a national event; it’s our way of just supporting Northwestern Wildcats who are on the process of coming out or can’t come out,” Turner said. “(It’s a good way to) show solidarity and support for each other.”

Lewis said Rainbow Week is intense, but fun. She said it’s a way to introduce freshmen and transfer students to Rainbow Alliance and what it is like to be LGBTQ on campus.

Chicago-based intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonis is Rainbow Alliance’s fall speaker this year. Pagonis will visit campus on Thursday. Weinberg senior Car Jansen, Rainbow Alliance’s co-president, said talking about intersex experiences is not a commonly-held discussion in most communities. Being intersex means having sexual anatomy that doesn’t align with typical definitions of male or female.

“(Intersex) is not something that’s talked about a lot within the queer community, let alone outside the queer community,” she said. “(Pagonis is) just really good at explaining how the binary isn’t a thing.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @marianaa_alfaro