Ice Cream Social
Staff Members Ciara Gazaway and Bonnie Johnson greeting people at the National Coming Out Day Ice Cream Social on Friday, October 11.

This National Coming Out Day, one organization at UT decided to bring a little flavor to the LGBTQ+ community.

The Pride Center hosted its annual National Coming Out Day ice cream social Friday evening. The university’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies were invited to socialize and eat treats in a casual, fun event held in Strong Hall’s atrium. Free merchandise, such as stickers and pride pins, were handed out during the course of the event, and there were handheld pride flags aplenty.

The social event celebrated the rite of “coming out of the closet,” but it also acknowledged that such a feat is not always possible for many members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Ciara Gazaway, a graduate assistant for the Pride Center, discussed the demographics of the people the event was aimed at.

“It’s for mixing and mingling (and) to build community,” Gazaway said. “It’s for folks who are out in the community but also people who haven’t come out yet or who are just allies.”

Events like this on campus occupy a special role for a community that may feel isolated from the rest of the goings-on at UT. According to the Princeton Review, the University of Tennessee is one of the most unfriendly college campuses in the nation for LGBTQ+ students, but having celebrations that commemorate LGBTQ+ people and their culture helps to mitigate those feelings of alienation and separation.

LGBTQ+ gathering spaces and events are also critical for new students who have yet to find a niche in the UT community. Bailey Burroughs, a sophomore student, explained that casual social events, such as the ice cream social, help LGBTQ+ students meet people with similar experiences.

“It can feel very isolating to be a queer person, especially in a new environment where you don’t already have a set community,” Burroughs said. “For freshmen who don’t already interact with the LGBT community at UT, these events are a good way to meet new friends [and] find a support system.”

Cecilia Foust, a freshman who attended the event, explained that events such as the ice cream social help expand diversity on campus.

“These events lessen the persistent feeling there is a ‘them’ and an ‘us,’ so we can demonstrate that diversity is normal and vital to the healthy culture of any environment,” Foust said.

As October is LGBT History Month, the Pride Center is hard at work planning events to foster more dialogue between the LGBTQ+ community and the greater UT population. There will be a mixer for LGBTQ+ graduate students and allies on October 24 and a career readiness workshop on October 30.

Be on the lookout for upcoming events sponsored by the Pride Center. For more information, check out their website or visit their office located in Melrose Hall.

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