Members of Framingham State and other community organizations celebrated National Coming Out Day during the University’s first Intergenerational LGBTQ+ Banquet on Wed. Oct 11 in the Forum.
The event was hosted by Baypath Elder Services and FSU, with help from other community organizations such as OUT MetroWest and Jewish Family Services. Kim Dexter, director of equal opportunity, Title IX and ADA compliance, and Cindy Getchell from Baypath organized the event. Eighty individuals attended.
“We need to hear each other’s stories – generationally, members of the LGBT community, and folks who are not in that community,” Dexter said.
The keynote speaker at the banquet, Kristen Eck, received a standing ovation from the crowd after telling the story of her transition. Eck is a traffic reporter for WBZ radio.
“I think for each of us, growing up LGBTQ was a different experience depending on when you did it and where you lived. For many, coming out is never an option at all,” said Eck.
“Back in the 1980s, there was no internet, there was no Amazon. If you were a little boy looking to buy a skirt, you had to have the guts to walk into Filene’s and buy one,” she said.
State Representative Jack Patrick Lewis, who founded OUT MetroWest, shared his coming out story while giving the welcome remarks.
“I came out 2 weeks after National Coming Out day back in 2004. And I remember because my best friend kept slipping brochures under my door from the local pride center at the university,” he said.
“Even in 2017 it’s so important to still celebrate the powerful event of coming out,” added Lewis.
Beth Wilson, who came to the event with Baypath Elder Services, said, “I find it’s important for this to be mainstream. I welcome discussion between multiple generations because, as a lesbian, I am traversing all generations.”
The MetroWest Daily News reported in August that Baypath received a grant to further invest in the organization’s LGBT Initiative.
Getchell told The MetroWest, “There is such a strong need for all the informational services.”
Tina Thompson, who also came with Baypath, said, “It’s wonderful that Baypath is creating this program, because there are gay and lesbian people who are aging and need services.”
State Representative Chris Walsh also attended the event and said, “It’s amazing to see the energy and unity in the group. This has become mainstream and it’s a wonderful thing to be in Massachusetts, to take the lead.”
Freshman Joel Loor said, “I came today because I know a lot of people who are a part of the LGBT community and not all of them can be as gay as they want, and I want to know how to help them better.”
Freshman Matthew Polimeno said, “Pride is something that’s just there. We all accept each other and if something, or someone, is out of line, it’s looked down on.”
After dinner at the event, Polimeno was one of four individuals on a discussion panel that addressed the different personal and professional experiences of members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“My position as a white gay male, I feel like I’ve had it ‘easier’ than some other people,” he said.
Members of the University’s Pride Alliance helped advertise for the banquet and attended the event to show support for Dexter, their faculty adviser, said the club’s president and Zach Pierce.
Dexter said the success of this event may lead to more affinity groups on campus embracing the intergenerational ideal.
“Elders experience a lot of isolation. LGBT elders even more so. Drawing on younger generations in the community can help create a bridge to a lot of those folks who might be isolated,” said Dexter.
She added because the banquet was “such an important and meaningful event,” it will be returning next year.
A representative from Baypath Elder Services wrote on the organization’s Facebook page, “After such a wonderful event, Baypath and Framingham State are looking forward to hopefully putting on many more inclusive events together in the future.”
Senior Jace Williams said, “I’m glad I chose to come to a campus that supports this community and continues to show it with events like these.”