Stony Brook University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transsexual Alliance (LGBTA) collaborated with the Center for Prevention
& Outreach on Friday, October 19 to host the Rainbow Prom in the Student Activities Center.
The event marked the end of Coming Out Week, an annual event that celebrates LGBT culture and encourages people “in the closet” to “come out” and be prideful of their sexual orientation. It also provides a chance for members of the LGBT community to experience a prom, where they can dance with whomever they want and feel comfortable. Some may have missed out on this in the past because of their sexual orientation.
“It gives them visibility,” said Teri Tiso, an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy who is openly gay. “It gives young people confidence, and that’s all any student wants, is to feel like anyone else, to fit in.”
The purpose of Coming Out Week is to raise awareness about LGBT issues, such as disease prevention, discrimination and acceptance, and to encourage people everywhere to be more open and accepting of others. The week-long celebration aims to end prejudices and clear up myths about sexual orientation.
“I feel like it makes them open up their eyes and realize that there is another community other than Hispanics, blacks and whites that are constantly unrecognized,” said sophomore Kaleim Reid, 19, a health science major. “And nights like this help them to get the recognition that they deserve.”
Speakers at the Rainbow Prom included University President Samuel L. Stanley and Christina Vargaslaw, who commended the LGBTA for its efforts in expanding diversity and promoting the acceptance that Stony Brook has to offer its students.
“I’m just overwhelmed with the amount of support for the LGBT community,” said Vargaslaw, the director of Diversity and Affirmative Office of Action. “And I’m proud that the campus community could come together to provide support and to celebrate tonight. I’m really proud.”
The event paid homage to senior Jessica Rybak and Stony Brook graduate student Camron Crowe for their involvement and hard work in the LGBT community by presenting them with the Pride scholarship. First awarded in 2004 by Marylou Stewart, a former professor who passed away from ovarian cancer last August, this scholarship is designed for students who identified with and supported the goals of the LGBT network.
“I think that coming out week is really about visibility,” said Crowe, 27, a third year mathematics student. “People need to courage to come out and be themselves. And since confidence is something that’s built over time, this is a really good way to start.”
Students ended the night by dancing with their friends and respective partners regardless of gender. LGBT president Laura Drapkin, 21, a senior and French major, expressed her satisfaction, calling the prom “a really great end to an awesome week. I can’t wait for it to happen again. I hope that they have an awesome time and that they learn something, and that we’re here for them.”