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How National Coming Out Day Brought People In

From+left+to+right%3A+GSA+Advisors+Ms.+Klemas+and+Ms.+Ezratty+with+Generation+Q+Staff+LoAn+Nguyen+and+Keri+Satterfield%0A
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From left to right: GSA Advisors Ms. Klemas and Ms. Ezratty with Generation Q Staff LoAn Nguyen and Keri Satterfield

Laughter, smiles, and tears were exchanged in the library on Wednesday, October 11 as students and teachers spoke about both the joys and the struggles of being a part of the LGBTQ community. The event, organized by Hills’ Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), was in honor of National Coming Out Day, an annual day of awareness and celebration for the LGBTQ community and its allies.

The day started in the lobby, where the GSA had a table with stickers, pins, and rubber bracelets for both students and staff who wanted to show their support. Starting period four, they moved to the library where the club advisors, Ms. Klemas and Ms. Ezratty, led a discussion circle about coming out and other LGBTQ experiences.

Although our school first started celebrating this day in 2019, it was founded in 1988 as a way to honor the first anniversary of the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It is meant to be a day of celebration for LGBTQ people and their identity, and the GSA achieved that with their event.

The Beacon sat down with one of the club advisors, Ms. Ezratty, who has been with the club since 2018. How has the celebration changed in past years? In the past, there was a post-it board in the lobby, where students wrote what coming out means to them. This year it was swapped out with a jar of compliments. Take a random paper with a compliment on it, and leave one for another student. The goal was to spread kindness and positivity, and many students stated that the compliment they received brought them joy.

The biggest change was bringing in two staff members from a program called Generation Q. Ran by Queens Community House, Generation Q is a Forest Hills based after school youth center for LGBTQ students and allies. In the library flyers, pins, stickers, and candy were distributed.

Students held a discussion circle, where the flow of emotional conversations had a meaningful impact on many students. One student, who has been in the GSA for three years stated, “This community really is a family, just know you’re not alone.” 

Other students expressed gratitude for the event as well. Student William Whelan expressed to The Beacon how he disliked feeling different throughout middle school. During the discussion he said, “I couldn’t really find anyone who was quite like me, but being here is really nice.”

After the event, The Beacon was able to speak to Keri Satterfield and LoAn Nguyen, the Generation Q staff in attendance. We asked how they would advise students and staff to be better allies to their LGBTQ peers. “When one marginalized community is not safe, no one is safe,” Nguyen expressed. 

Satterfield agreed, “Any role that you have as an advocate and ally is equally important,” she added. “Conversations that we have inside of our homes with our own family members are often the most powerful thing we can do.”

The event was a success, with different students and staff members participating each period. Principal Wilbur also stopped in, showing his support for the community. The major takeaway for many participants, as Nguyen thoughtfully stated during the seventh period discussion circle, is that “When we have a safe space, we grow exponentially from each other.”

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