Students mingled and watched performers deliver jokes, speak and sing on a blue and purple-lit stage as part of a coming out day celebration in the Northridge Center.
The celebration is the Pride Center’s way of acknowledging National Coming Out Day even though the event did not land on the day itself. The event is typically held on a Thursday regardless of when the holiday is because more students can attend, according to Sarina Loeb, coordinator for the Pride Center and LGBTQ initiatives.
“For us at the Pride Center, it’s not about really encouraging people to come out,” Loeb said. “It’s about encouraging people to be proud of their own identity.”
Attendees were given black shirts with the words ‘I Am’ printed across the chest, which was derived the celebration’s theme, a hashtag of the same two words. A white box was printed underneath the words, which people could fill in with whatever they wanted.
Besides the hashtag being a way for people to express their identity, the meaning also relates back to the Pride Center itself, for which the slogan is ‘Be You.’
“One of my students thought [of the hashtag] as a response to ‘Be You,’ proclaiming ‘I am’ proud…gay…an ally…beautiful, whatever people want to put in there,” Loeb said.
The night started off as a small social event before opening up to a variety show showcasing student and professional art.
Among some of the performers was 19-year-old Grey Valdez, a creative writing major, who performed spoken word for the audience. One of Valdez’s poems discussed the concept of the “dead name,” which he explained is someone’s birth name that they no longer go by.
Although Valdez said he still occasional gets “dead-named” by some people, but the campus allows him to embrace his identity.
“When I’m at CSUN, [the campus] is my safe haven where no one knows, or if they do know, they respect my real name,” Valdez said.
Because CSUN is such a personal place for Valdez, he felt honored performing for his peers at the event.
“It’s special that I was even chosen to do poetry for this because two out of the three people who performed are cisgender,” said the young performer. “And I think it’s really important to have representation, and have trans representation.”
Valdez went on to say that while representations of transwomen are more commonly accepted now, visibility of transmen and transmasculine individuals is still lacking.
Another performer, although not a student herself, had a special meaning to the identity-celebrating event.
L.A.-based singer/songwriter Lauren Ruth Ward played a handful of songs with her band towards the end of the night. Ward thanked the previous performers for sharing such personal stories to the audience before sharing her own.
“I just want to say today is my coming out day,” Ward said.