It’s commonly said that when one door closes, another opens.
On Monday, a radiantly rainbow door opened and closed, over and over again, as LGBT+ UCF students stepped through the doorway, ready to finally be seen as their true selves for the first time.
Sunday marked National Coming Out Day, a civil awareness day first observed in the late 1980s to raise awareness about LGBT+ rights. Many individuals celebrate the day by coming out to family and friends, a process that involves revealing their sexual or gender identities.
The Multicultural Student Center sponsored an event outside the UCF Student Union on Monday to celebrate the LGBT+ students on campus, both those that had already come out and those who have yet to open the door.
“It’s a chance for people to come out as their authentic selves, to find support in a very hard time,” said Mel Essick, a junior animation major who identifies as trans masculine. “A lot of people don’t think coming out is a big deal, but it is … a lot of people are still persecuted.”
Students who participated in the event wrote their identities on paper, along with the hashtag “#NationalComingOutDayUCF,” and then posed for a photo with their sign as they stepped out of a rainbow-painted door.
“You know, the whole metaphor ‘coming out of the closet’ has become popularized and also kind of embraced by the community as sort of an in-joke. So, the door kind of represents that in a physical and light-hearted way,” said Emily Kutik, a junior information technology major. “The rainbow’s on the inside, but then you open [the door] and it’s on the outside.”
Dozens of students stepped through the door, each with a different message to share with the world scrawled across the sign they carried.
Some of the signs were straightforward: “I’m gay and I’m okay with that.” Other students used humor to profess their experiences, writing signs such as, “Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not!”
The response was overwhelmingly positive, Kutik said. Although it can be scary for many students to come out, Kutik said UCF and Pride Commons are safe places where students can find acceptance.
It was a sentiment shared by Edwanna Andrews, the director of the university’s Social Justice and Advocacy department.
“It’s important that we recognize all our students here at UCF so everyone knows they are a valued member of the Knight community,” Andrews said.
Despite the celebratory atmosphere, grinning faces and funny photos, students at the event sobered when asked to share some advice for others struggling to come out.
“Coming out is a very personal experience. It’s not always necessary or not always possible for everybody,” said Kutik, echoing the voices of almost every student in attendance. “Prioritize your own personal safety. Don’t jeopardize your livelihood. Don’t jeopardize your family or personal life. Don’t jeopardize your safety or your career.”
Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer and Watchdog Reporter for the Central Florida Future.