Representatives from Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada and Metropolitan Community Church helped UNLV’s LGBT students set up tables outside the student union Thursday afternoon to give visibility to the the 25th annual National Coming Out Day. A handful of students from the university's LGBT student organization, Spectrum, held a mini-parade through the campus, culminating in a event in the UNLV ballroom.
The event is to shine a light on the challenges facing the gay, bisexual and transgendered communities in coming out, especially to families. The goal of the day is LGBT community and their allies celebrate coming out and encourage those who haven't to make their voices heard.
“The rough thing about coming out as being trans(gender) is you have to break your mother’s heart twice,” UNLV student Jerra Strong said.
The 20-year-old Strong came out as "queer" to his mother four years ago, then came out as a transgendered man at 18. Strong says he was worried about how the revelation would affect his family, but said it is better to focus on the positive aspects of coming out, rather than the fear.
“I think focusing on the coming out process can bring light to the benefits and the problems that come along with it,” Strong said.
The coming out process varies from person to person and is as diverse as the LGBT community.
“I may not tell people about my partner,” Strong said, “but I can’t hide the way I look.”
Cameron Catton, youth services manager for the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said they present “Coming Out 101” to their youth group, which includes kids as young as 13.
“It sends the message that there are people who care about them coming out safely,” Catton said.
Catton has heard a wide range of coming out stories while working at The Center, from acceptance to death threats from parents. He says it’s important for kids to plan for every eventuality.
“We talk about strategizing,” he said. “It’s unique for everyone, but we have some broad strategies that seem to work.”
Las Vegas’ LGBT community celebrate National Coming Out Day at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Fruitloop, the area of gay bars on Paradise Road, south of Harmon Avenue. Attendees can expect a carnival atmosphere with outdoor entertainment, prizes and special events inside the bars, said Paul “PJ” Brazier, owner of the nightclub Freezone.
The Las Vegas gay community started celebrating National Coming Out Day about 12 years ago, and it is meant to be an introduction to the LGBT community.
“If they haven’t joined the community, it’s a chance for them to come out and show their colors,” Brazier said.
This is the first year The Center will not have a vendor table at the event, but Joshua Montgomery thinks his volunteers from the The Center’s Vegas Mpowerment Project will do just fine advocating for the organization.
In addition to the Southern Nevada Health District’s free HIV testing in the Freezone parking lot, Mpowerment volunteers are expected to hand out 2,500 safer-sex kits.
While the event is advertised as open to all ages, there will be extra security to keep the youth out of the bars. Brazier said they don’t typically have many activities for minors.
But the outdoor festival usually has a strong youth presence.
“I would like the (coming out) festival to grow to become a celebration that also includes families,” Catton said.
National Coming Out Day, traditionally held on Oct. 11, commemorates the gay rights march on Washington, D.C. in 1987 that drew a half-million people.
Contact reporter Wesley Juhl at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesJuhl.