Celebrating sexuality and gender identity

QPOC, AGES organize Coming Out Day event

Students gathered in the Campus Center to celebrate National Coming Out Day with music, games, prizes and other attractions on Thursday, Oct. 13. 

“Coming Out day is an enlightening experience for me,” said Lizy Chovatia, ’26. “It connects people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community and I think that’s special.” 

Planned by the All Gender Equity Society and Queer People of Color, the event provided queer students with many different activities and gifts to show pride. 

“We wanted it to be very relaxed but also with things to do all over the place so you could find an excuse to hang out and not have to be loudly celebrating as a Pride event,” Cam Lesher, ’24, president of AGES, said. “It’s really nice to have people walk through, grab a pin and flag, and the whole campus is colorful afterward.”

While the event is only one day a year, many believe the importance of representing LGBTQ+ support on campus is crucial for students.  

“I feel like there’s not a lot of queer students on campus and a lot of closeted students,” said President of QPOC Erica Fontan, ’24. “Providing a comfortable space for people not comfortable in their sexuality is really important and throwing this event can hopefully get some people out of their comfort zone.” 

Lesher echoed a similar sentiment.

“I know a lot of people who have come to Allegheny and this was the first place where they’ve felt like they can be out,” Lesher said. “Having a space where they can celebrate that identity and also feel safe to express things that they can’t in other spaces is incredibly important to me. I want (students) to have a space on campus where, even if they come home they’re going to go back in the closet, they can declare their identity here.”

To further support students, board members of both clubs were there throughout the event. Supported this year by the new director of Inclusion, Diversion, Equity, Access, and Social Justice Center Lisa Nicole Smith, Lesher said that they have been “super helpful” to the production and planning of the event.

“With the addition of the new director of the IDEAS Center, I think that, hopefully, we’re going to open up to a lot more constructive programming and collaboration with the institution and with the IDEAS Center,” Lesher said.

However, while the IDEAS Center provided support, the event was entirely student-run, operated and planned. 

Currently, Allegheny does not have an operating Gay-Straight Alliance. According to the GSA’s network website, these student-run organizations are usually responsible for “uniting LGBTQ+ and allied youth to build community and organize around issues impacting them in their schools and communities.” 

AGES and QPOC operate as representation and event planners for all queer students on campus. 

“Not having a GSA is difficult because we are more specialized in specific areas of LGBTQ+ pride and experience,” Lesher said. “But we also try to make events and programming that are going to welcome all people to learn about those specific areas because BIPOC communities and also gender diverse communities tend to be overlooked a lot of the time.” 

However, both club presidents believe that student-run events still need the same support from the Allegheny administration. 

“I feel like my past two years it (has) been very performative, supporting marginalized groups in this institution,” Fontan said. “It’s great that we have student organizations and the IDEAS Center but I feel like we could do more.” 

Fontan suggested the college could include more funding and more support from higher staff within     the administration. 

“I’m hoping the impact can be really positive and celebratory,” Fontan said. “We never take the time to celebrate just us, so one of my main goals for the event is just for everyone to feel celebrated and happy.”

The event was attended by dozens of students as they walked through the Campus Center, and also provided sexuality flags to express students’ individual pride. 

“I have heard many people happy about the programming that we’ve done for Coming Out Day and also with picnics that we’ve had because when you come onto this campus people are still learning about themselves and figuring out who they are,” Lesher said. “I just want everyone to feel like they can be themselves.”