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Ithaca College celebrates National Coming Out Day with Pride Parade

By Kristen Gowdy and Emily Masters

All Hannah Livernois knew was that she had to be a part of it.

On Halloween last year, she was walking with a friend through campus when they came across a bright explosion of rainbow. Balloons, clothes, face paint, signs, everywhere Livernois looked she saw color.

Her friend scoffed at the extravagant display of LGBTQ pride. Livernois, who hadn’t yet come out, halfheartedly agreed — mostly to quell her friend’s judgment. But at that moment, Livernois, then a freshman at the college, set a goal for herself.

“I resolved to, as soon as I came out, to come here this year,” she said. “This is something that I belong at, this is something that I am going to get for myself, because I deserve to be happy and open.”

“This” is the second annual IC Pride Parade, put on by Spectrum, the discussion-based campus group. Livernois was one of the approximately 50 students who attended the event, which took place on Ithaca College’s Academic Quad Oct. 11 and coincided with National Coming Out Day.

The rally and parade were preceded by a proclamation from Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick earlier in the week that both recognized and supported National Coming Out Day. In his statement Oct. 8, Myrick acknowledged the work of both Ithaca College’s and Cornell University’s LGBT centers, as well as Out for Health, a community organization run by Planned Parenthood.

“It’s wonderful when elected officials recognize the diversity in our communities,” said Luca Maurer, the program director for Ithaca’s LGBT center. “We know from research that the thing that changes people’s hearts and minds the most around being supportive of LGBT folks is knowing that they know a person.”

Spectrum president Erin Kohler said the rally and parade were a place to foster that support.

“Just showing our support of each other and allies showing their support of us and just showing our community how strong we are,” they said. “We aren’t perfect, but we are getting to a place where we are more equal. But it’s still invalid to a lot of people to be who we are.”

Kohler kicked off the event with a speech on the history of National Coming Out Day. Then Maurer took the microphone to discuss the campus’ LGBT center and its importance to LGBTQ individuals and their allies. The attendees then marched through campus, chanting and holding signs with slogans like “We’re here, we’re queer” and “Don’t fear the queer.”

For sophomore Marilyn Markech, the confidence she gains from bonding with other LGBTQ students is the most important part of an event like the IC Pride Parade.

“I’ve made a lot of friends who are sort of part of the community as well, so I feel more connected,” she said. “I feel like I have more of an opportunity to be who I am and I don’t feel judged for it.”

Maurer said that, while the rally and parade were certainly a step in the right direction, there are still many issues that LGBTQ students face, both in the campus community and nation-wide.

“We still have no comprehensive non-discrimination workplace laws in the country,” he said. “We still have no non-discrimination laws that include many different things other than marriage that protect people’s rights to life, liberty and the ability to move freely about society and to do things that most people don’t give a second thought to. On the plus side, we do have a lot of protection on campus.”

That protection includes the college’s non-discrimination policy, which encompasses discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.” Thanks to the general support of the campus community, Livernois felt comfortable coming out.

It is also the reason that, one year later, she was able to fulfill her resolution.

“Last year, when the homophobic person was my best friend in the entire world and then I lost her and then I had no friends at all, I was just kind of like, ‘Whatever. I’m going to do what makes me happy, because no one else is going to care about what makes me happy. I’ll do whatever that is.’”

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