Marshall shows support for LGBTQ+ community through National Coming Out Day event


Michaela Crittenden

Students shopping for goods from Full Circle Ceramics, supporters of the LGBTQ+ community, for National Coming Out Day.

Coming out may not always be easy, and sometimes it is a little bit more difficult in West Virginia, said a Marshall University student who attended the National Coming Out Day event Thursday. 

“It’s really important that we have stuff like this,” said Zac Thabet, a Marshall student who identified himself as gay. “For so long, the LGBT community, we didn’t really have stuff like this. We had to reach further out to find support groups. For people who haven’t seen anything like this before, especially a place like West Virginia, it’s really important.” 

Thursday, Oct. 10 marked the first time Marshall University celebrated National Coming Out Day with the goal to celebrate the act of coming out. The event is an attempt to let students know that Marshall is a warm, safe and welcoming campus no matter who they are, according to Shaunte Polk, program director for the Center for African American Students and the LGBTQ+ office. 

“This event is not intended to force anyone to come out, but just to say you are valued, you are loved,” Polk said. “And we will show you all the resources that we have available on campus. You can come and visit us anytime, because we are here for you.”

Jillian Brown, who is a freshman at Marshall, said the National Coming Out Day event is a new experience for her. 

“I’m from a very conservative area, and we don’t usually have everything like this,” Brown said. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity for students.” 

Approximately 16 organizations on-campus and off-campus celebrated the event, including the Campus Activities Board, Health Spectrum Alliance of Joan C.Edwards School of Medicine and Huntington Pride. 

“These are not only Marshall University student organizations, there are Huntington community organizations,” Polk said. “They have tons of resources. It’s so many people out here who are supportive of our LGBTQ students.”

Talking about the coming out process, Polk said it’s a very difficult thing for both people who have already came out and for those who are still going through the process.

“It’s difficult, and it’s a hard road,” Polk said. “You never know how the world is going to view you, how those close to you will view you. We understand it. I have a ton of students that I work with daily who are out here at Marshall, and when holidays come, they have to go home and hide. They’re not their true selves.” 

Wang Jyun Jen, a Marshall student originally from Taiwan, said the event gave him a familiar feeling, as Taiwan also supports people publicly sharing their gender identities. 

“We have (had) a parade in Taiwan before to support the LGBTQ+ community,” Wang said. “We also legalize same-sex marriage. I pretty (much) support this event and encourage people to show their real gender.” 

Polk said the event is not only to show the support of Marshall for the LGBTQ+ community but to show the resources that are available on campus that can help students.  

“This is another reason for today. Students will know that there are people around you too,” Polk said. “We have counseling department, psychology department out here. There are tons of people that you can talk to if you want some help so you can come out to your family and friends or guide you through the process.”

Phuong Anh Do can be contacted at [email protected].