The Coat of Arms

National Coming Out Day Assembly Recap

Scott+Stevens+%28%2716%29+speaking+at+the+National+Coming+Out+Day+Assembly.++Photo+courtesy+of+Pete+Zivkov.+
Scott Stevens ('16) speaking at the National Coming Out Day Assembly.  Photo courtesy of Pete Zivkov.

Scott Stevens ('16) speaking at the National Coming Out Day Assembly. Photo courtesy of Pete Zivkov.

Scott Stevens ('16) speaking at the National Coming Out Day Assembly. Photo courtesy of Pete Zivkov.

Elisabeth Westermann, Opinions Editor

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On Thursday, Oct. 11, Spectrum Club held an assembly for National Coming Out Day. Menlo alumnus Scott Stevens (‘16) spoke about his own coming out journey and why National Coming Out day is important for him. Afterwards, four current Menlo students, Griffin Thomas, Natasha Walia, Braedon Young and Alexa Thomases shared their own coming out stories.

The student reactions to the assembly appeared to be unanimously positive. “I really liked it. I thought all the speakers were super funny and it was cool to hear about their experiences because […] we don’t really have a lot of opportunities to talk about stuff like that, either in class or outside of class […] I give them major props for being able to get up and do something like that,” sophomore Mia Hamilton said.

Students also liked the way the student speakers used humor and made their talks casual. “It was really lighthearted and fun […] and it just [made coming out] seem so simple and [like it] shouldn’t be that big a deal […] [it] should be a normal thing,” sophomore Jasper Sands said. Junior Kendall Boesch agreed, “I liked that it was really really normalized and casual.[…] The way the speeches were presented helped iterate how absolutely normal [coming out] is.”

The student members of Spectrum Club who planned the assembly wanted it to educate the Menlo community about the experience of LGBTQ+ students and provide role models for closeted students. “The members of Spectrum Club agreed that having several students share short coming out stories would be an engaging and lighthearted way to have a discussion about what it’s like to be LGBTQ+ at Menlo […] We also felt that sharing these stories in a casual and celebratory way would normalize the process of coming out,” senior Alexa Thomases said in an email.

Thomases wanted to focus her speech on the importance of allies.“I think it’s easy to overlook how much of a difference allyship makes, so I really wanted to drive home the point that the support I received from my friends after coming out was invaluable. Also, I wanted to emphasize that my coming out was neither traumatic nor life-changing,” Thomases said. Senior Braedon Young wanted his speech to provide comfort to closeted kids at Menlo. “I decided I was going to speak because of some past experiences I had as a closeted kid. I know what it feels like to be alone and helpless, and I wanted to give anyone in any situation, like my own, someone they can see and talk to if they need to. I wanted to make the closeted kids at our school feel safer and more comfortable with coming out,” Young said in an email.

Many of the student speakers think that Menlo already creates an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ students and that the assembly was a way to reinforce that accepting community. “We’re already an incredibly accepting and comfortable place from what I have experienced and heard. I simply hope that the assembly left people feeling prideful in who they are, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pan, trans, or however they may identify and that it also made people feel more connected with each other,” Young said. “I think we do do a really good job of making it an inclusive environment […] At least for me, it was very easy for me to come out because I knew so many gay kids here who were being accepted,” junior Griffin Thomas said.

Despite Menlo having a generally inclusive environment, there is still room to improve according to the speakers. “I have often heard students using homophobic or transphobic slurs as well as using the word ‘gay’ as an insult. […] Another toxic mindset that permeates nearly every part of society — and Menlo is no exception — is heteronormativity. The assumption that everyone is heterosexual and cisgender can interfere with the process of coming to terms with one’s sexuality or gender identity, taking pride in it and being open about it,” Thomases said. Thomas held a similar point of view and hoped the assembly called attention to those issues. “I hope it […] creates a kind of awareness of the homophobia we do have […] just that term ‘you’re so gay’ or ‘fag’ and just creating awareness that there are actually people that feel very offended when you say those words,” Thomas said.

The students from Spectrum club were also generally pleased with the reaction to the assembly. “The positive reaction we have received from students and faculties alike has been incredible. Speaking for myself, I have been overjoyed at the outpouring of support for the LGBTQ+ community. Seeing everyone at Menlo wear the rainbow stickers we distributed and put them on their water bottles, laptops and phone cases was definitely heartwarming,” Thomases said.

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