As a local way to celebrate National Coming Out Day (NCOD) on Friday, October 11, two board members of the non-profit LGBTQ Resource Center of the Gulfport Public Library will be audio recording the stories of local residents who wish to have their personal history become a permanent part of the collection.
“We wanted to do something meaningful because it’s a powerful experience for people when they go through the coming out process,” said board member Greg Stemm.
A reservation sign-up sheet is available at the front desk of the library and 30-minute reservations are available on Friday, October 11 or Saturday, October 12 from 10 a.m. noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., said board member Brittany Baldwin. The sheet will also be available at the library’s monthly LGBTQ film presentation on Thursday, October 10 beginning at 7 p.m. For more information about the film series, visit mygulfport.us/lgbtq-resources.
“People can also just show up too but if we’re already talking to somebody, they may have to wait for a little bit,” he said.
The goal is to obtain as many stories as possible, said Baldwin.
“If people think that telling their story will take longer than 30 minutes, they have the option to write it then send it in,” she said.
Light editing is also a part of the project, said Baldwin.
And, if needed, people can also ask to be anonymous, said Stemm.
During the recorded conversations, Baldwin and Stemm are prepared to guide people through the process of telling their stories, if needed.
The recordings will then be transcribed and included with the written narratives in a printed book entitled “Coming Out in Gulfport, Our Stories” that will become a permanent part of the collection, said Stemm.
“We want this to be a Gulfport project,” he said.
Stemm and Baldwin are looking for people who have lived or are currently living in the city, and for those who feel they have a strong local connection.
“This is also for family and friends of LGBTQ people who have had their own experience when their loved one shared their coming out story with them,” said Baldwin.
According to the Human Rights Campaign website, NCOD officially began in 1988 and was an idea created by Robert Eichberg, a psychologist and founder of the personal growth workshop entitled “The Experience” and Jean O’Leary, then head of National Gay Rights Advocates. They were inspired by the crowd of half million people who attended the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on October 11, 1987.
In Gulfport, “the purpose of doing this is to chronicle the stories and add to the collection,” said Baldwin. “And, it’s a sweet personal touch that might resonate with somebody else.”