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National Coming Out Day at UH Hilo included a panel discussion with, from left, Chenit Ong-Flaherty, Joel Tan, Destiny Rodriguez and Coan Yates-Tese.

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo students and the community learned about the resources, both on and off campus, for the LGBTQ+ community as well as how to become a more supportive ally at the campus’ National Coming Out Day celebration on October 11. UH Hilo has made the commitment to offer support to the LGBTQ+ community through promoting a stronger, healthier and equitable environment.

A highlight of the National Coming Out Day event was a panel presentation with four diverse and unique individuals that discussed the various ways of becoming a supportive ally. Being an ally can be challenging especially when it is not clear where support is needed but the best way, according to the panel, is to be curious and do your own research.

The panel also stressed that conversing about the social issues facing the LGBTQ+ community raises awareness and solidifies that these issues are dynamic, real and relevant. It helps people realize that protecting LGBTQ+ rights is protecting human rights.

Panelists tips and reminders

  • “How can you be more supportive, in general, to anyone you’re close with?” asks Joel Barraquiel Tan, current executive director at Kalani Honua and an artist, writer, performer and activist. “Get more curious and learn more.”
  • Destiny Rodriguez, current prevention educator and confidential advocate at the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action at UH Hilo says, “One person is not the voice for all—not all of us are going to be allies for everyone, but being open and honest about not knowing things is best. We’re not expected to know everything but everything starts by asking questions.”
  • Chenit Ong-Flaherty, a new faculty member in the UH Hilo School of Nursing, was also a part of the panel. Ong-Flaherty has more than 20 years experience in teaching about transgender issues and equality. “Being an ally is also being an advocate, it’s pretty simple. Ask yourself what the right thing to do is. The right thing is to stand up for human rights because we are all equal.”
  • Coan Yates-Tese, a transgender community member, says, “Ask for a perspective and definitely do some of your own research but most importantly, treating me like a regular friend is being an ally—advocating for equality is how you become a supportive ally.”

LGBTQ+ resources

There are numerous support services and resources available around Hawaiʻi Island and the campus community. In addition to the UH Hilo LGBTQ+ Center, university services include the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action. Community groups include Hawaiʻi Island Pride and Kalani Honua, a retreat center in Kaʻu.

For more on this story, go to UH Hilo Stories.

—A UH Hilo Stories article written by Anne Rivera, a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor

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