When Myra Taksa’s son was 16 years old, he came out to her as gay. She said she had no idea how to be the parent of a gay child.
“Thanks to him, I’ve met the best people in the world,” said Taska, the former president of Philadelphia’s chapter of Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, and an employee in Temple’s computer service department.
“I’ve learned so much from the LGBT individuals and from the parents there. I think I’ve really become educated, and thats what we try to do now – is to educate other people.”
PFLAG was one of many organizations participating in Temple’s 2014 National Coming Out Week Fest.
In the afternoon on Oct. 17, students entered the Student Center atrium through an archway of rainbow balloons, where Philadelphia and Temple student organizations gathered to conclude a week of LGBTQ awareness and acceptance.
Michael Horwath, sophomore marketing major and vice president of external affairs for the Residence Hall Association, said students from residential life have a tradition of sponsoring NCOW.
This year the association is working to raise awareness for a gender inclusive proposal to reserve a floor in residence halls where students can choose their roommate without gender constraints.
“There was someone very personal in my life that came out last year because Temple does this event,” said Annabelle Recierdo, a sophomore psychology major and member of the Residence Hall Association.
“He actually went through a scenario where his roommate was not okay with him being gay, so this proposal means a lot to me, because had we had it before he wouldn’t have had to go through that emotional distress.”
For students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, the week is a chance to call attention to LGBTQ rights on Main Campus.
“I think a big purpose is that it’s a gesture on behalf of the university to show that [it] is still paying attention to the LGBTQIA community, but I think it’s also a reminder of the work that people are doing,” said Morgen Snowadzky, a junior women’s studies major and an employee at the Wellness Resource Center, a sponsor of NCOW.
Snowadzky, the recipient of Temple’s 2014 MarcDavid LGBTQ Scholarship, said that even for students who are not members of the LGBTQ community, NCOW is a chance to support their friends and get involved.
“Education is obviously important, especially for allies and people who don’t identify within the community,” Snowadzky said. “But I think [NCOW] has the potential to appeal to the student community who are not necessarily involved in LGBTQIA [organizations], to make them feel more a part and to make people feel like they have a space on campus.”
While the week offered a variety of entertaining activities, like the Drag Show held on Oct. 13, it also touches upon more serious issues in the LGBTQ community.
“We have a lot of gay youth out there who are in homeless shelters who go through abuse on a day-to-day basis,” said Pedro Santiago, a member of Y-HEP Philadelphia, an organization that works to empower young people in the city.
Halley Balkovich, Snowadzky’s colleague at the Wellness Resource Center, agreed that while NCOW is a fun experience, it is also important to raise awareness for problems that LGBTQ youth may experience.
“The Wellness Resource Center and NCOW really try to touch on all aspects of being young and being LGBTQIA,” the junior public health major said. “[These are issues] that get swept under the rug, unfortunately, and though these issues aren’t as fun, they are still relevant.”
Alexa Bricker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org