Every year, LGBT 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 across Long Island. This year’s campaign marks the 13th Annual NCOD Campaign.
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 LGBT youth, families, and educators.
Over 65,000 students participated in last year’s NCOD with 61 schools implementing the campaign. LIGALY believes that the NCOD campaign appeals to all people, whether they identify as LGBT or as an ally – or even those that have never considered speaking up before. Students and educators alike who have never considered being an ally are gaining the awareness that they need in order to “come out” and support a cause they were once afraid of backing.
“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,” says Irene Tsikitas, Director of Programs for LIGALY, “the National Coming Out Day Campaign allows youth to have the opportunity to ‘come out’ in any way to help make schools safer for LGBT youth and their allies.”
LIGALY’S NCOD Campaign calls on the entire school community to “come out” as advocates of safer schools and to help reduce levels of LGBT-related harassment and bullying. The NCOD Campaign encourages participants to make a statement and show their support of LGBT 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-LGBT bullying in schools. LIGALY also provides free on-site training for student organizations that want to host the campaign.
In addition to providing education and training to schools who wish to participate, the LIGALY Advisory board (LAB), a youth leadership group that meets every Monday from 5pm-7pm at the Center at Bay Shore, hosts a special themed “OUTlet” in celebration of NCOD. OUTlet is a Friday night youth program that is a unique, safe, and substance-free space to make friends and hang out.
“National Coming OUTlet” will take place on October 9th 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.