During Fall Break, The Center for Social Change and Community Involvement painted a rainbow crosswalk to mark National Coming Out Day, which was on Oct. 11.
“This crosswalk was actually inspired by my wedding trip to Iceland, where they have a rainbow road there,” said Kayleigh McCauley-Sayer, associate dean of students and executive director of The Center.
The Center partnered with Queer Student Union (QSU), the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) and Spiritual Que(e)ry to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the new crosswalk. Representatives from each group gave speeches to celebrate the occasion. Local businesses Etta and James Junction and Almond Ave pottery also attended, selling LGBTQ-related merchandise and handcrafted pottery. Partnering with local businesses is something that The Center hopes to continue doing in the future.
McCauley-Sayer spoke about the significance of National Coming Out Day, as well as how she hopes to support LGBTQ+ students on campus.
“Personally, I came out 20 years ago as a lesbian, and being out in my personal life and professionally is a really important part of my identity, and … I do everything in my power to support our LGBTQ+ students in our community, so this is just one way that I can use my position at the college to help influence our community here,” McCauley-Sayer said.
Erin Khong ’21, graduate assistant for The Center, echoed this idea.
“(Coming Out Day) is special to me because not everyone has the opportunity to be in the space to come out, and for me personally coming to Lewis & Clark was my journey to coming out and feeling like myself, and I think (LC) provided a very safe space for me to do that,” Khong said.
Luca Sax ’22, who spoke for QSU and IME, had the honor of cutting the ribbon during the ceremony. He spoke about the importance of the sidewalk.
“This crosswalk is a very visual representation of the fact that we have this very vibrant and supportive community here,” Sax said.
National Coming Out Day was first celebrated in 1988, and this year marks its 33rd anniversary. The holiday’s purpose was initially to encourage the act of coming out as a political action, in which being openly gay or lesbian was a form of activism that could combat homophobia. Since then, however, there has been a shift in attitudes regarding coming out. Critics have pointed to the fact that coming out relies on the assumption of heterosexuality. There are also concerns about the danger coming out presents, especially to more vulnerable populations. To many, the day has taken on a new meaning.
“(National Coming Out Day) is a hard day, but also a special day for folks who are in the process of coming out, thinking about coming out, are coming out (or) have come out,” Khong said.
National Coming Out Day also provided an opportunity for the LC community to connect and provide support to students on campus.
“It’s really nice to see people out in the community,” Joann Zhang, director of IME, said. “I think there’s so much intersectionality and celebration to be shared, especially with today being Indigenous People’s day as well. So I just love being in the community and seeing and being able to connect, laugh, share, and it’s a great event. I wish we would do things like this more often,”
This was the first event that The Center has held this fall, and the rainbow crosswalk is now a permanent fixture outside of Maggie’s for students to walk by and enjoy.
“I hope this crosswalk inspires hope, brings joy and strength to those who see it, who walk upon it, who dream of walking this road,” McCauley-Sayer said.