Every year, Long Island GLBT students and their allies don rainbow ribbons and ally stickers to participate in Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth’s (LIGALY) National Coming Out Day (NCOD) School Awareness Campaign. This year’s campaign marks the 12th Annual NCOD Campaign that LIGALY has been organizing since 2002.
Since 1993, LIGALY’s Safe Schools Initiative has worked with more than 100 of Long Island’s 127 public school districts to develop a school culture that fosters support, understanding, and respect for GLBT youth, families, and educators.
Over 60,000 students participated in last year’s NCOD with a new sense of empowerment due to the striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). LIGALY believes that the NCOD campaign appeals to all people, whether they identify as GLBT or as an ally – or even those that have never considered speaking up before. Those who have never considered being an ally are finally gaining the awareness that they needed in order to “come out” and support a cause they were once afraid of backing.
“LIGALY’s National Coming Out Day Campaign allows youth to have the opportunity to ‘come out’ in any way to help make schools safer for GLBT youth and their allies,” says Irene Tsikitas, Regional Director for LIGALY, “having a specific day where the youth know it is safe to express who they are or what they supports means a lot to youth everywhere – regardless of whether or not they choose to actually ‘come out’ on NCOD.”
LIGALY’S NCOD Campaign calls on the entire school community to “come out” as advocates of safer schools and to help reduce levels of GLBT-related harassment and bullying. The NCOD Campaign encourages participants to make a statement and show their support of GLBT students by wearing a rainbow ribbon pin or ally sticker. LIGALY provides free campaign kits to participating schools that include the rainbow pins and stickers, as well as campaign posters, palm cards and a resource guide to assist students in implementing the campaign.
Every year, the materials for the campaign are developed and created by LIGALY’s Safe Schools Team, a group of student leaders who are provided with specialized education and training to address anti-GLBT bullying in schools. LIGALY also provides free on-site training for student organizations that want to host the campaign.
This year, the LIGALY Advisory board (LAB), a youth leadership group that meets every Monday from 5pm-7pm at the GLBT Center at Bay Shore, is having a special themed “OUTlet” in celebration of NCOD. “National Coming OUTlet” will take place on October 10th from 8pm-12am. This OUTlet invites youth to socialize with other youth who also participated in NCOD at their schools and to engage in several activities, including a safe space to tell their coming out stories if they wish to do so.