Coming Out Day strives to spread awareness and tolerance

OCEANSIDE — Rocking bands, happy families and familiar health, city services and vendor booths filled the Beach Recreation Center in celebration of Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. Also in the mix were same sex couples dancing, drag performers singing, and an occasional man in a jeweled tiara. The event brought together an eclectic group of people — straight, gay and lesbian — who were simply being themselves and having fun.
The fact that the city of Oceanside supported the Coming Out Day, and the city of San Diego honored the event with a special commendation, is considered a significant social step forward by the gay and lesbian community. “We used to be afraid to even ask (to meet in a public place),” Kay Compton, a member of Proud Active Lesbian Seniors, or PALS, said.
A timeline of gay and lesbian history in San Diego that was posted at the event documented how the community has grown in tolerance and equality. Still a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person may face hate crimes and inaccurate stereotypes that make life difficult. “We have to work 10 times as hard,” Dan Eman of Oceanside Squares support group said. Eman also said intolerance causes a high suicide rate in gays and lesbians. “Some gays and lesbians get depressed and don’t do anything, (or) don’t go anywhere.”
Support groups like Oceanside Squares and PALS help build camaraderie and normalcy among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. “We just want people to be able to accept us as neighbors, teachers, the people we are,” Compton said. “PALS is a safe place to meet every week to talk about health issues, political issues.”
Max Disposti, event organizer for the North County Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Coalition, or LGBT, and also a member of the Oceanside Community Relations Commission, said the goal of the Coming Out Day celebration is to create more visibility for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, that is part of the rich diversity of North County.
Disposti said many people are still uncomfortable with the topic of gays and lesbians and ask why gays and lesbians need to label their sexual orientation. Disposti said he feels it’s important to call things what they are. “It is who we are,” he said.
“It isn’t just about sexual orientation,” eventgoer Nicole Williams said. “It’s about having pride in yourself.”
Williams tried to fit in with “traditional expectations,” got married and was unhappy. Now she is a single mom of six. “Now I’m happy,” Williams said. She brought her six children to the event to let them form their own ideas of who they are. All of her children had the word “pride” painted on their T-shirts.
“If you start to treat us like normal people, we’ll act like normal people,” Compton said.

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