WATSONVILLE — For eight years, students at Pajaro Valley High School have gathered in the quad for National Coming Out Day, adorning themselves in rainbow-themed attire and, occasionally, taking one of the biggest steps of their lives.
The act of “coming out” — when someone tells their friends and family about their sexual orientation — can be a gut-wrenching decision in the best of circumstances.
Teacher Erica Murphy, who serves as advisor for the PVHS Gay/Straight Alliance, said the event is a way to create a supportive environment for students still scared of the stigma that comes from being part of the LGBTQ community.
Murphy said the event has gone from being attended by four students to one eight years later in which school district administration attends, and dozens of students are supported by the school’s cheerleading team as they burst through a symbolic door set up for the occasion.
“It has its own momentum now, like it’s going to roll on,” Murphy said. “It’s really important to see that we give dignity and respect to LGBTQ people. It creates a culture of acceptance.”
Jamie Joy, a community advocate from the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County, said they were happy to be able to attend the event four years in a row.
“I think Pajaro High is a special place and the students here have developed a lot of support throughout their school and into the community,” Joy said. “It touches my heart to see these students coming together for their cause here today.”
PVHS Sophomore Christian, who did not want to give his first name because he has not yet come out to his parents, said there are still many young people hampered by the traditional views of their community who need to feel supported.
“We need more people like us in the community so people in the closet won’t feel scared,” he said. “It’s important for me to come out and enjoy my life.”