Florida A&M Student Government Association’s Department of Diversity’s goal is to reach out to students on campus who are considered unnoticed. The department focuses on students who are: non-black, non-Christian, non-traditional, disabled and LGBTQ students (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer).
On Tuesday night, the Department of Diversity collaborated with the university’s Student Pride Union and held a National Coming Out day event at the Foster Tanner Art Gallery.
“This is a time of sharing and allowing people to come out of the closet and getting to know the different struggles they go through,” said Courtnee Eddington, a fourth-year entomology student from Louisiana.
Eddington said the student pride union promoted the club on the set before the semester began and was proud to see the number of freshmen who instantly became open with their attraction to the same sex.
“A lot of people didn’t know we existed,” she said. “It’s great to see a lot of people being brave. It prevents you from judging people.”
The founder of LGBTQ Jubilee Jackson, a fourth-year physical education student from Fort Lauderdale, also gave his story.
“It’s so natural for me to like dudes, sometimes I forget there are straight people in the world,” said Jackson, whose goal is to show that there are a lot of gay people on campus, and they want their rights like everyone else. “We want to stop getting criticized and be accepted because we contribute.”
Lindsay Fields, a first-year chemistry student from Jacksonville, said being around people who encouraged her to come out gave her confidence because she wanted to come out long ago. “I am here to support everybody; this is a place where I feel safe,” she said.
The first director of the department of diversity, Hannah Brooks, an alumna of the university from Chicago, was visiting. She also told her story.
“I went to a Christian school and they tried to pray the gay out of me,” Brooks said.
The navy’s “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy gave Crystal Guest, a graduating social work student from Washington D.C., the green light to publicly show her affection for her girlfriend while visiting her on base.
“I purposely kissed her in front of everybody and didn’t care,” said Guest. “We’re planning on getting married next summer, but I don’t know how to tell my dad.”
This year made the third year that the student pride union and SGA department of adversity held this event. Some students said that they are aware of the struggles that gays go through so they are committed to educating those who are still in the closet on the importance of self acceptance.
Asha Rizor, a third-year biology student from Stock Bridge, Ga., and head of the department of diversity, said the turnout was unexpected.
“People are willing now to talk about their experiences on being diverse, and that’s what we’re about,” said Rizor.