In honor of National Coming Out Day, I found it important to highlight the resources and opportunities for involvement and belonging on campus for LGBT* students. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to interview Impact’s 2023 President, Orin Smith, on the opportunities for growth, involvement, and inclusivity for LGBT* students on campus.

The spirit of National Coming Out Day is radical visibility, an activist theory regarding the power a community has by being visibly and unapologetically themselves in spaces that are unwelcoming of them. The act of coming out as your most genuine self on a campus isn’t the most accepted with strong radical visibility. It’s important to recognize that people have unequal feelings about the coming out process. Visibility is difficult and delicate daily work. Not everyone is able to safely come out while others were never able to be stealth or in the closet in the first place. Others within the community who are “out” still aren’t always perceived as belonging in the LBGT* community and still deal with invisibility. National Coming Out Day is celebrated because the politics of visibility impact everyone in the community. National Coming Out Day started as an activist idea in 1988. Students on campus have been gathering to celebrate community and each other since 2012. 

What are some experiences you have had on campus where you didn’t feel included or like you belonged?

“Coming to campus and not seeing a place for anyone like me in Greek life. After finding a community where I could be on campus, in the PB Poorman Pride Center, I started an initiative on campus to found a gender-inclusive Greek organization, for those who have historically been excluded from this community to feel welcome. Very excitedly, on May 6, 2023 we had our first class finish their initiation process. I was really happy to find that the Greek community has been really welcoming to our society.”

What was a challenge you faced starting the organization?

“There wasn’t a Greek council that would accept us as a chapter when we started the organization. Before starting the expansion of the organization, I had to start a new council called the Intercultural Greek Council.”

Where, in your opinion, are the most inclusive spaces on campus?

“There is work to be done campus wide to make campus a more inclusive and welcoming place. The most inclusive places on campus are the Warhawk Connection Center and the PB Poorman Pride Center.”

What would you like to tell students who may be struggling with belonging on campus or a piece of advice you’d like to share with students?

“Get out of your dorm and find your people. Don’t go on Yik Yak and don’t go on the class stories, and prioritize your mental health and safety before “fitting in”

National Coming Out Day is a great day to learn more about the inclusive spaces and resources on campus. Orin has been an incredible advocate for the students on this campus and embodies what it means to be a Warhawk. Visit them in the PB Poorman Pride Center if you are curious about learning more about involvement opportunities and finding your safe zone on campus.