As part of an effort to improve the sense of belonging experienced within the Loomis Chaffee community by students who identify as LGBTQIA+, a group of faculty recently organized a series of campus events around National Coming Out Day.
The day is celebrated annually on Tuesday, October 11, the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights.
Co-chaired by Associate Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Courtney Jackson and Special Assistant to the Head of School Mary Liscinsky, the faculty task force that organized the celebration is one of several groups formed in response to a survey conducted last year in conjunction with the JED Foundation to which 676 students responded. The survey results indicated that students who identify as LGBTQIA+ often struggle with feeling that they belong.
Courtney and Mary are working with several other faculty members to address this issue head-on.
The group coordinated with the Athletics Department and with students in the Loomis Chaffee Athletics Association to raise awareness at sporting events on game days before and after National Coming Out Day. “We wanted to recognize and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Director of Athletics Sue Cabot. “Sports has major social and cultural influence, and we hope that our school’s athletics programs (will) empower allyship to support a more inclusive community where all feel welcome and are able to be themselves,” she continued. “We can't be our best selves unless we can be our full selves.”
Additionally, Courtney arranged for a display in the Scanlan Campus Center of 14 Pride flags, with accompanying educational plaques, which “represent the diversity within the queer community,” according to Courtney. She sees the flags as an invitation for people to learn more and to start discussions. “It’s another way of approaching the subject,” she said. “Flags are a way of expressing identity.”
All dormitories and day students also participated in educational programming around National Coming Out Day. The sessions were designed by Courtney, who is head of Batchelder Hall, and Ned Heckman, a faculty member who is on the task force, works on the DEI team, and is head of Taylor Hall. Faculty-led presentations took place in each dorm on Tuesday evening. They covered the meaning of the term "coming out" and included four scenarios for students to consider.
In addition to Courtney, Mary, and Ned, other members of the task force are Chloe Alexander, director of multicultural recruitment; John Cunningham, sports information director; Netta Hadari, orchestra director; Eva Haldane, counselor; Eric LaForest, head of the History, Philosophy, Religious Studies Department; Tim Lawrence, director of studies; christian.ryan, visual arts faculty; and Amy Thompson, dean of enrollment.
The group will continue its efforts throughout this school year and beyond. Future plans are in the works for events around Transgender Day of Visibility and the National Day of Silence, in which Loomis students have been participating for many years.
“Visibility matters,” Courtney said. “It’s important to educate everyone on queerness so that everyone can be more active in their allyship.”