For this year’s National Coming Out Week, Nu’Rodney Prad and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership wanted to celebrate marginalized groups within the LGBTQ community, like people of color. To represent their intersecting identities, the team landed on the slogan “We, Us, Ours.”
“The words ‘We, Us, Ours’ shows that we are the ones that build the coalition you know, and through this process of coming out, it allows people to see the authentic individual, and then we’re able to come as a collective together,” said Prad, the director of student engagement at IDEAL.
Temple University hosted a series of daily events and panels during the week of Oct. 11 for National Coming Out Week, which celebrates the LGBTQ community and encourages LGBTQ people to share their sexual orientations and gender identities. Students felt empowered by the different events and were grateful to see their community represented.
NCOW is an important way to start conversations about gender and sexuality and to let LGBTQ students know what kind of resources are available to them, Prad said. The goal is to get people at the events to continue those conversations after NCOW.
The week began on Oct. 11 with the NCOWFest & Speakout event, a street fair in front of the Howard Gittis Student Center featuring vendors from different student and community organizations and colleges at Temple, including the College of Liberal Arts and Fox School of Business. The booths had free pride flags, pride buttons and activities for attendees.
Melissa Ballow, a graduate student secondary education major, went to NCOWFest & Speakout to see what resources were available to LGBTQ students, meet other LGBTQ students and show pride in her identity, she said.
“It’s also important for those of us who are either in the closet or in the process of coming out because coming out, you are always doing it to everybody that you meet,” Ballow added. “So, if this first event gets you to meet others and understand them and to become more comfortable in your own skin, that’s exactly what it’s for.”
Lynn Carroll, assistant director of graduate professional development for the Fox School of Business, managed their booth and asked students to write down on post-it notes what they would say to someone who came out to them, she said.
Carroll wanted to share some of the positivity she received when she came out in college, especially because of the track record of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community in professional business spaces, she said.
For example, 67 percent of LGBTQ accountants reported hearing derogatory comments and jokes about LGBTQ people in the workplace, according to a 2021 survey from The Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business, a global association of accountants and other financial professionals.
“I think it’s important for Fox to give our students the information and the emotional support that they need in order to take that next step in the workplace,” Carroll said.
The second event, Truth & Power, was held on Oct. 13 on the third floor of the Student Center and featured a speech by LGBTQ activist George M. Johnson about their advocacy and book, “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” followed by a question-and-answer session and book signing.
Johnson did not identify as nonbinary until they were 33 years old when their grandmother told them they had always been somewhere in between boy and girl but never had a word for it.
Giovanna Campos heard about the event through IDEAL’s Instagram page and decided to attend because she wanted to learn more about the intersectionality of race and LGBTQ issues, she said.
“The speech was just very inspiring in every way,” said Campos, a sophomore neuroscience major.
Queer Connect, the third event, was held on Oct. 14 on the third floor of the Student Center and featured a panel of guest speakers sharing their experiences with being LGBTQ in the workplace. The event was hosted through a hybrid in-person and online format.
Angela Giampolo, an LGBTQ legal expert, spoke about starting her own law practice, the Giampolo Law Group, after a year of working at a traditional law firm, where she experienced microaggressions about her sexuality making her feel unwelcomed in the legal industry as a lesbian, she said.
“Being amongst humans who respect you authentically for you are, and you get to bring yourself to work, that is priceless,” Giampolo said.
The fifth and final event for NCOW was the annual drag show in the Performing Arts Center. The show had a warm-up performance by Dare 2 Dance, a dance company at Temple aiming to inspire others through the arts. There were seven drag performers and By Any Means Necessary, an inclusive hip-hop dance company at Temple, performed to close the night out.
Each drag performer danced to a song of their choice. At the end of each number, Sasha Mala, a local drag queen who hosted the event, gave each of the performers a chance to reflect about their performance and spoke about other LGBTQ activists.
The educational aspect combined with entertainment is what makes the drag show an important part of NCOW, Prad said. Being educated about LGBTQ issues is an important way to support LGBTQ people because many times people do not realize things they say are discriminatory.
He also hopes the NCOW events make students and faculty more aware of the community and resources available to them when they are going through hard times, he added.
“People are not here to go through things alone,” Prad added.