Central Michigan University’s Office of LGBTQ Services has made strides toward acceptance with the introduction of their social media project, #ChippewasComingOut.
The project features stories from students about their coming out as part of the LGBTQ community. It is featured on the Office of LGBTQ Services Facebook page and on their Twitter page as well.
“My intern Zach (Mackowiak), it was his idea,” said Shannon Jolliff, director of the Office of LGBTQ Services. “He posted a request for submissions on Facebook and Twitter and asked people to submit their stories.”
Mackowiak posted his coming out story Feb. 3 as the first story of the program.
Since then, students and alumni have submitted stories of their own journeys and moments of coming out.
“I received huge support after posting my own coming out story, so I thought I would try to set up a program here,” the Shelby Township senior said. “Everyone has been supportive of the project and everyone writes so well.”
Jolliff said there is not always a platform to discuss LGBTQ issues. She hopes this project could help those who submit their stories become more comfortable. It could also give those reading who have not yet come out some comfort and support they might be looking for.
“It is one of the bigger things we have done,” Jolliff said. “For the people that are submitting their stories, I think it is validating their decision. We’ve had nothing but positive comments and responses.”
Social media has played an increasing role in how the office gets the word out about their programs, Jolliff said. Another social media outlet the office has is a live Twitter feed at various events.
“Students really seem to be into social media,” she said. “There has been a trend toward hashtagging.”
The office has organized other projects involving social media and hashtags such as #SameLoveCMU around Valentine’s Day, where people submitted photos of themselves with their significant other.
Jolliff said she believes the office plans to continue to push #ChippewasComingOut, and possibly similar projects in the future.
Justin Gawronski, a senior and Macomb native, was one of the students who submitted a story with the Chippewas Coming Out hashtag.
“I do a lot of work in the office, and Zach asked me to submit a story,” he said.
Gawronski said that he feels reading the stories on Facebook could be inspiring to others.
“It’s really hard to draw broad generalizations,” he said. “But I look at it this way: If one person reads the stories, it’s all worth it.”
Mackowiak said he has no plans of cutting the project off after graduating and is going to keep posting stories as long as they keep coming.