As LGBTQIA+ History Month continues into its second week, Gender & Sexuality Programs has two events planned for today to commemorate recent observances that occurred over fall break.

National Coming Out Day is observed Oct. 11 to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other sexual orientation- and gender identity-diverse people in “coming out of the closet.” Coming out allows the person to develop as a whole individual, allows for greater empowerment, and makes it easier for an individual to develop a positive self-image. It also allows for developing closer, more genuine relationships with friends and family and connecting with other people who are LGBTQIA+. Research indicates that people who come out of the closet to their heterosexual and cisgender friends and family members help to create more positive attitudes toward the LGBTQIA+ community.

Illustration of people holding pride bannersToday from noon-2 p.m. in the Farinon atrium, stop by the Coming Out Day Celebration and Resource Fair. There will be giveaways, fun prizes, and educational resources from on- and off-campus organizations. Guests include both the Bradbury Sullivan LGBT Community Center and Eastern PA Trans Equity.

Then at 7 p.m. there will be a screening of Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine in the Farinon Center’s Limburg Theater.

Background from Tommy Lee

Matt Shepard

Matt Shepard

The horrific events that took place shortly after midnight on Oct. 7, 1998, would become one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in American history and spawned an activist movement that more than a decade later would result in passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal law against bias crimes directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people. Two men abducted Matt and drove him to a remote area east of Laramie, Wyo. He was tied to a split-rail fence where the two men severely assaulted him with the butt of a pistol. He was beaten and left to die in the cold of the night.

His memorial service was attended by friends and family from around the world and garnered immense media attention that brought Matt’s story to the forefront of the fight against bigotry and hate.

The life and death of Matthew Shepard changed the way we talk about, and deal with, hate in America. Since his death, Matt’s legacy has challenged and inspired millions of individuals to erase hate in all its forms. Although Matt’s life was short, his story continues to have a great impact on young and old alike. His legacy lives on in thousands of people who actively fight to replace hate with understanding, compassion, and acceptance.

While we’ve come a long way in the last 20-plus years, LGBTQIA+ inequality and hate crimes are still very real today, and parts of Matt’s story are unfortunately still very much a part of young people’s realities. Though framed through a very personal lens, Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine tells a universal story that highlights the responsibility we have now to make sure young people around the world are not at risk of falling victim to the same story ending Matt did.

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