National Coming Out Day with Alok Vaid-Menon celebrates identity and community

Alok Vaid-Menon, a well-known gender non-conforming performance artist, writer, and educator, performs and answers questions at the National Coming Out Day celebration in the Student Union ballroom on Thursday night. The event was put on by the Rainbow Center. (Poto by Maggie Chafouleas/The Daily Campus)

On Thursday Oct. 11, the Rainbow Center held its 20th celebration of National Coming Out Day, featuring gender non-conforming performance artist, writer and educator Alok Vaid-Menon. Through several impactful poems, anecdotes and witty jokes, Vaid-Menon highlighted the struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community and the significance of celebrating Coming Out Day. Despite there being one day dedicated to coming out, both the Rainbow Center and Vaid-Menon emphasize that instead of being a one-time event, coming out is an ongoing process, and everyone is in a different stage. Whether it be to family or friends or, as Vaid-Menon says, “every time [they] come out the door,” it is continuous.

The first National Coming Out Day was held on Oct. 11, 1988, one year after the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Now this date is an annual reminder that the fight is not over. While celebrating the freedom associated with coming out, Vaid-Menon made it clear that liberation is too often pushed aside, as transgender people are continually forced into society’s boxes. They continue to face violence and prejudice, showing that coming out is only the first hurdle of many. Vaid-Menon, who has been confronted with this type of prejudice, “want[s] people to exist outside of categories,” and “recognize each person's complexities” without assigning them to a box.

As a trans person of color, Vaid-Menon has been subjected to racism in addition to and in relation to transphobia. Violence and harassment have made them question whether coming out was the right choice, and whether it was worth the treatment they receive every day. However, they say they do it for other members of the trans community. They want to continue the fight started by trans people in the past, who devoted themselves to getting trans rights.

“The most powerful parts of ourselves are the parts we are told are shameful,” Vaid-Menon said.

After Vaid-Menon’s performance, they held an open question and answer session. They answered questions regarding their family's reaction to their coming out, the importance of supporting queer artists in fashion and the issues facing the trans community now, in addition to several other topics. Each question was insightful and thoughtful, allowing for an interactive experience that strengthened the connection between performer and audience. When the time for questions was over, Vaid-Menon sold copies of their poetry book, “Femme in Public.” The support for this book was overwhelming, with a long line of students lingering after the event to purchase a copy, have a conversation and take a picture with Vaid-Menon.

At another rainbow-clad table, both before and after the performance, students working in the Rainbow Center offered a variety of items to attendees, such as wristbands and t-shirts, as well as pamphlets and cards with information about personal pronouns, the Rainbow Center and the event.

National Coming Out Day has a special place in the hearts of many members of the LGBTQ+ community as a day of visibility, strength and celebration of identity.

“I love the fact that it is the one day that you can find solidarity and community…. and it is empowering that even if someone can't come out, one day it could be them,” Nicole Catarino, a first semester English major, said.

“It is a constant reminder that we exist,” Liz Collins, a first semester student, said on the importance of the event.

“It gives me permission to be myself,” said an attendee who wishes to remain anonymous.

No matter the reason for celebration, National Coming Out Day brings members of the LGBTQ+ community together, pushing forward towards equality and acceptance for everyone.


Meghan Shaw is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached cia email at meghan.n.shaw@uconn.edu.