UTICA — Fourteen laminated posters covered in stories from faculty, staff and students at Mohawk Valley Community College became a mosaic of conversation Wednesday as the student body celebrated Coming Out Day, an annual event in the LGBTQ community.

Coming Out Day is a national celebration of LGBTQ members coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or as an ally. On campus, the event was a platform for students to share their stories — from a wife telling her husband she was bisexual to numerous young students declaring their identity to friends and family.

The event was hosted by MVCC’s LGBTQ Committee, and the chairwoman of the group, Carolyn DeJohn, championed the opportunity to provide safe, welcoming spaces for LGBTQ members.

"Part of being a community college is, a lot of our students face a lot of obstacles," DeJohn said. "As a community college we want to help people get over those obstacles and provide that space for them.

"If you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes and learn their story, it makes such a big difference."

The stories shared by students, faculty and staff were varied, but most were anxiety-inducing, nerve-wracking accounts of summoning courage to tell the truth.

Most of the stories had a happy ending. Some didn’t. All were emotionally open, however, and unquestionably real.

"I turned to my husband and said I was bisexual," a poster of an account written by Anna Chapman read, "and he supported me."

Luckily, the student body was supportive, too. In the first hour of the event, roughly 30 students, some taking notes, paused and considered the stories.

"I’ve had a couple of friends in the past who were dealing with this," said Kenneth Burdick, a student at MVCC. "They’re a lot stronger than me. Even though I’m straight and I might have had less challenges in my life, they are definitely a lot stronger mentally than I am."

Burdick’s visit to the event was voluntary. He earned no credit, nor was he told to go by anyone. For him, the stories themselves were important enough to seek out.

"I wish more people were here because it definitely makes your perspective change," Burdick said. "I have a lot more respect now (for members of the LGBTQ community). ... In this day and age, it’s definitely a good thing to have."