By Rachel Kish
October 11 is an important day to many: National Coming Out Day, a day to celebrate coming out as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer person in general. This October 11 marks the 28th anniversary of National Coming Out Day—the first was observed 28 years ago on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights. It’s a day that emphasizes the most basic form of activism in the LGBTQ community: Coming out! You may not understand why National Coming Out Day is important, or why it even exists, but have no fear. If you aren’t someone who normally celebrates such a wonderful day, you don’t have to start just because of an article in our school’s newspaper. Just let us do our thing and be happy for us if you’re not really feelin’ it.
Coming to Carlow my freshman year in 2014, a university known for its Catholic roots, I was a bit worried about how accepted I would be as an “out” lesbian. However, my worries were eased as I began to learn about Carlow’s core values and how instilled they truly are within the Carlow community. If you’re unfamiliar with Carlow’s core values, they’re mercy, hospitality, service, discovery, and sacredness of creation. Because of these, and because Carlow is endlessly loving and accepting, I was able to find a second home in Frances Warde Hall, and a family that surrounds me. Now, you may be wondering just how the values of Carlow made me feel better about being a gay lady surrounded by some religious folks. Well, let me explain.
Carlow’s definition of our first core value, “mercy,” urges us to “open our hearts to our students, our colleagues, and our world,” according to Carlow’s website. I felt so much love the minute I walked onto campus. No one that I met seemed to care about my homosexual identity; honestly, the topic rarely came up. I was simply loved for the person that I am, and that made me feel safe. Our second value, “hospitality,” states that “[Carlow] welcome[s] the wholeness of each person, creating a space in our campus community for all individuals with their varied beliefs, cultures, orientations and abilities.” That one should be pretty self-explanatory. “Service” is our third core value, and it states that here at Carlow, we have a “spirit of compassion.” I’ve found this to be incredibly true as well. There are few people at Carlow, if any, who I have met who did not seem to be compassionate people, and that is something I appreciate endlessly. Our last two values, “discovery” and “sacredness of creation” kind of go to together in my opinion when it comes to being a member of the LGBTQ community at this university. We “open ourselves to the totality of our human experience” when we value “discovery,” and valuing “sacredness of creation” leads us to “a respect for each person and for all of creation.” So, essentially, Carlow accepts me for being a person, and doesn’t accept me any less for being a gay one.
The point in writing this article was to give even a smidgen of comfort to someone who is considering coming out (to one person, or to the world). If it’s something that you’re worried about, that’s okay, but just know that Carlow will be here to support you and love you more than ever before. Don’t be afraid to be who you are. Don’t hide if you don’t want to. Make yourself happy, love yourself, and do what you need to do. Happy National Coming Out Day! I hope it’s a good one.