The Auburn Gay-Straight Alliance's Pride Week is quickly becoming a yearly tradition for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning community to assert its presence and build new relationships with supporters.
This year, however, Pride Week has taken on new meaning, with a recent string of highly publicized suicides within the LGBTQ community because of bullying.
Monday was National Coming Out Day, and AGSA took to the Haley Center Concourse to give students the chance to be themselves and show support for their peers.
"We're giving students the opportunity to come out of the closet," said Braxton Tanner, sophomore in zoology and AGSA political director. "We're also giving students who aren't coming out of the closet a chance to write a message of support and love so they can make the scariness of coming out a lot easier."
Tanner officially came out to the Auburn community Monday, but said he has been out among his peers for several months. While he has faced some negativity from peers and family members, he said he finds comfort in the AGSA community and other straight allies.
Straight allies are termed "strallies" by gay rights activists.
"I am here as a strally, which means that I am just here to support the community," said Rhamah Norris, freshman in pre-vet zoology and an AGSA member. "It's really important that people have support when they come out."
Tuesday was Strally Day, with ribbons handed out to supporters of the movement, and Wednesday was Civil Rights Day.
AGSA highlighted 1,100 rights guaranteed to heterosexuals, but denied to homosexuals because of laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act.
Today is Transgender Awareness Day.
"We're trying to raise awareness of common farces that are out there about the transgender community," Tanner said. "A lot of transgendered people don't get much focus because all the attention is given to people of same-sex orientation."
The week will close out tomorrow with AGSA raising funds and awareness for the Trevor Project, a group that seeks an end to LGBTQ suicides brought on by bullying.
With recent suicides garnering national attention, AGSA is acutely aware of the need for a support system within the community.
Patrick Padilla, freshman in English and history and an AGSA member, said one aspect that is often overlooked in the discussion about bullying is that many teens and young adults who are bullied for their sexual orientation are actually heterosexual.
"Are we just going to ignore the suicides for the kids who weren't in the sexual minority?" Padilla said. "They are regularly bullied with derogative terms that are applied to our community."
Padilla said he feels the Auburn community is accepting, or at least tolerant, of the LGBTQ community.
"I know there are pockets who do not like us here," Padilla said. "For the most part, though, I feel welcome. I've never really experienced hate."
Tori Gimenez, freshman in prenursing, came out Monday after being inspired by her experience at Atlanta Pride over the weekend.
"It was a great celebration of people who are just happy with their lives," she said. "We stayed at a church that is gay-supportive, and they gave a really great service that basically said God loves all of his children."
Support has been the theme of the week.
Gimenez said it is this support that has helped in her decision to come out.
AGSA hopes to take that support and broaden it.