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Coming out on a college campus today

By Haley Miller, For The Miami Student

Oct. 11 marked the kickoff of National Coming Out Week. Numerous cities and college campuses participated in the week-long celebration, continuing the tradition that started in 1987 during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

Ryan Fry is a senior at Miami who came out during the spring semester of his first year. Before arriving in Oxford, Fry always sensed he was not like other male classmates.

"I had always known I was different from the boys in my classes or on the sports team," Fry said. "I had repressed my sexuality really the second I knew I wasn't straight."

During his years in middle and high school, Fry, like many members of the GLBTQ+ community, was bullied by his peers. His classmates would make insensitive comments about his sexuality at a time when he was still unsure of his own sexual orientation.

But upon coming to Miami, Fry noticed gay classmates living just like the other straight students on campus. They became his inspiration to accept his true identity.

"The first thing that gave me the courage to come to terms with it myself was seeing other gay people living their lives, normally, happily, just being functioning college students," Fry said.

After a semester of self-realization, Fry listed his closest friends in order of who he would come out to first.

"I still have that list somewhere … hidden for a scrapbook someday."

Starting on the ride back to Oxford, Fry began the process. He told his best friend from home, Erin, who was so happy for him all she could do was throw her arms up and give him a hug - despite the fact that she was driving.

Slowly but surely, Fry came out to all of his friends, one by one. He found that he was met with love and acceptance.

"Every single reaction was happy and supportive," he said.

As Fry came out to his inner circle, he also began to come out to larger groups, like the Miami Men's Glee Club and to some of his professors. Once again, Fry felt nothing but support. Even within a group of 90 men, like the Glee Club, Fry said he was able to be his true self without judgment.

"I cherish this group so much, and it was just overwhelming because it wasn't a big deal and it was just welcomed with happiness and support and love," Fry said.

Among faculty who have supported him, Fry cites Jeremy Jones, the director of the Glee Club, as an individual who has made the group a safe space for anyone. Regardless of race, sexual orientation or religion, Fry said Jones accepts students and calls all members "brothers in song."

Fry shared his appreciation for his group of friends, who have welcomed him, too. They call themselves the "gay mafia," and as the name may suggest, are a close-knit group of gay and straight friends. He said he feels incredibly lucky to have friends that are accepting of him and his sexual orientation.

"It was something, four or five years ago, I never would have been able to imagine," said Fry.

While Ryan's experience of coming out at Miami has been overwhelmingly positive, he does acknowledge that he can't speak for every member of the GLBTQ+ community.

A recent 2015 survey found that only 33 percent of GLBTQ+ students involved in Greek life at Miami feel comfortable, compared to 63 percent of straight students.

Fry said he believes the GLBTQ+ clubs could be more visible on campus. He said he had to do his own research to find the on-campus organizations.

The most prominent organization is Spectrum. Fry is a member of Spectrum and has been trying to convince more of his friends to come to their weekly Wednesday meetings.

According to Spectrum president Jacklyn Heikes, there are close to 400 members on Spectrum's email list.

The club works extremely closely with GLTBQ+ Services and was vital in the planning of events for Out Week. Spectrum provides a forum for members of the GLBTQ+ community to come and discuss issues each week.

Heikes estimates roughly 40 people attend the weekly discussion-based meetings.

During Coming Out Week, Fry was bogged down with a cappella rehearsals, as he is the director of the Cheezies, one of Miami's all-male a cappella groups. He said he wished his schedule could have allowed him to participate in more events during National Coming Out Week, but at the mention of the rainbow flags lining Slant Walk, his face lit up.

"I love them!" Fry said of the flag display.

The flags are meant to represent individuals who support the GLBTQ+ community on campus.

They waved all the way from the Phi Delt Gates to Alumni Hall with countless names standing in solidarity with friends, family members and acquaintances who are GLBTQ+.

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