National Coming Out Week: After the Closet

Coming out of the closet for any member of the LGBTQ+ community is equally liberating as it is terrifying, and sadly the latter comes first. Growing up in a society with normative sexuality and gender ideals leaves LGBTQ+ youth constantly questioning themselves.

However, as society—including Penn State’s—expands its understanding and acceptance of individuals from all walks of life, we see more and more people coming out at earlier ages than anticipated in the past.

ScienceDaily claims that “in 1991, the average coming-out age [for LGB youth] was 25. But as of 2010, … it is 16 years old” and a study done by Jaime M. Grant, Lisa A. Mottet, and Justin Tanis called “Injustice at every turn” showed that out of 6,500 transgender respondents, a large majority of them began their transition between the ages of 18 and 44 – both female-to-male and male-to-female.

Penn State’s LGBTA Student Resource Center acknowledges these facts and organizes a celebratory week full of engaging events every fall semester to commemorate those youthful individuals who have accepted their identity as well as foster an encouraging environment for those still in questioning.

During National Coming Out Week, the LGBTA Student Resource Center gets multiple esteemed LGBT+ individuals to come to the university and host lectures and discussions with students regarding the trials and tribulations they have experienced coming out and accepting themselves for who they are. There is also a “HUB Takeover” on the Monday of National Coming Out Week and a “Coming Out Rally” on the Old Main steps on National Coming Out Day which is the focal point of the week.

“We have so many identities we want to celebrate, doing it in one day wouldn’t do anybody justice,” says Sonya Williams, Assistant Director of the LGBTA Student Resource Center. “It’s [about] the community. If students are questioning or afraid to come out, to know that the fact that we have a center, we have resources, we have students here on campus who are out, and we have policies in place and protections for them, they can feel that they are supported.”

This week is intended to galvanize not only LGBT+ youth here at Penn State but also to encourage allies to spread the notion of acceptance and community across campus. The ultimate goal is similar to Penn State’s Pride Week which is featured each spring semester which is to utilize and showcase the resources and programs available to all students of any identity or orientation.

With a revered group of student and faculty volunteers, Penn State’s LGBTA Student Resource Center continues to reach out to its community and inspire growth amongst resilient LGBT+ students.