PUBLISHED:October 11, 2021

On National Coming Out Day, LGBTQ+ students share stories of openness and pride

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Duke Law honors the courage of students who braved adversity and discrimination by "coming out" as LGBTQ+. 

For 34 years, National Coming Out Day has been observed on October 11 to honor LGBTQ+ individuals sharing their sexual orientation or gender identity with loved ones, friends, or the public. This year, with the help of OutLaw, Duke Law School's LGBTQ+ affinity group, five students shared why this day is important to them and the difference that "coming out" made in their lives. 

"On National Coming out Day, we celebrate the transformative power of individuals coming out as LGBTQ+," said Dean Kerry Abrams. "I am proud that Duke Law School is a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming community that includes many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identified students. Our diversity is reflected in the large and active membership of OutLaw, our LGBTQ+ faculty and staff and their allies, and this year’s 1L class, which has 46 students who identify as LBGTQ+, very likely the largest number in our history.

"For me, National Coming Out Day is an opportunity to reaffirm the value of every one of our LGBTQ+ colleagues, students, and friends, and loved ones. I’m delighted to showcase these reflections from our students about what this important day means to them."

Larissa Burke '24

To me, being openly LGBTQ+ is about love (cliché, I know). It's about being able to not only love myself but to be loved by others for being authentically me. I have always known who I loved and have been privileged in the sense that I have surrounded myself with people that love me for me. I view today as a celebration of love! Of the love I have for others, the love I have for myself, and the love others have for me.

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Larissa Burke '24
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Edward Gonzales '22

Coming out was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was scared of how people would react, and, more importantly, I was scared of people finally seeing the real me. That’s why National Coming Out Day is so important—it’s a celebration of self-expression. When we teach ourselves to blend in, we lose the chance to learn more, grow more, and go further by sharing our differences. If you are struggling to come out, always remember that you deserve to live your best life by living in your truth. Everything else will come into place!

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Edward Gonzales '22
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Morgan Kelleher '24

National Coming Out Day means being proud of my authentic self, despite the adversity I have faced and will continue to face. It means knowing that no matter what the future brings, I can stand strong in my identity and be accepted for who I am. And it means having the space to celebrate a community that has supported and uplifted me throughout my journey.

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Morgan Kelleher '24
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Testimonial

Being visible, being open about our sexuality, and sharing our experiences are all critical to moving our society closer to love and full acceptance.

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Brett Ries '23

Alyssa Reyes '23

I’ve always been attracted to women. However, I dismissed this aspect of my identity for many years, thinking this attraction was a phase that everybody went through. I thought I’d be single all my life since I couldn’t picture myself marrying a man. Luckily, through the support of loved ones and inclusive communities, I now embrace the fact that I’m lesbian and hope to encourage others to do the same. National Coming Out Day is all about being proud of who you are and realizing that your identity is not a phase.

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Alyssa Reyes '23
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Brett Ries '23

National Coming Out Day provides a platform for LGBTQ+ individuals to come out for the first time, but “coming out” is not a one-and-done process. LGBTQ+ individuals are constantly coming out to the new people they meet. Today is a day to celebrate that emotionally taxing—but extremely important—work. Being visible, being open about our sexuality, and sharing our experiences are all critical to moving our society closer to love and full acceptance. Representation matters. Our stories matter. Today—and every day—is a great day to accept your full self, and there is a community ready to love and support you every step of the way.

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Brett Ries '23
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If you are a member of the Duke Law community who is on a journey of discovering your sexual orientation or gender identity and looking for support, please contact the following campus resources: