Today is National Coming Out Day, a nationwide event that provides an opportunity for students with diverse sexualities to share their stories and publicly come out of the closet.

Participants in NCOD will meet in Storke Plaza at noon to hear students’ coming-out stories. Also, attendees are encouraged to share their prose and poetry with the group during an open-mike session.

“We hope it will be an empowering, celebratory event,” said Stacey Spears, director of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity.

Other planned events include a reception at the MultiCultural Center and a drag king show by the Disposable Boy Toys at the MCC Theater.

The focus of the event is to foster community support for and understanding of the queer community, Spears said.

“It’s just a way for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders to come out in a safe and positive environment,” she said.

The Human Rights Campaign started NCOD in 1988 as a way for lesbians and gays to publicly declare their sexuality. The Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, Queer Commission and the Queer Student Union co-sponsor the event, which has existed at UCSB for as long as it has been held nationally.

“Before there was even a resource center, students from the Queer Student Union put the event together,” Spears said.

NCOD is meant to be a very individualized event, where students can come out in varying degrees, Women’s Center Director Deidre Acker said.

“Some people are out on campus, but not with their families, and some people are out with some of their friends, but not with others,” she said. “We encourage people to come out as much as feels comfortable.”

Acker also said a person has to make the decision of whether or not to come out with each new acquaintance and that NCOD can help to facilitate this complicated process.

“The complex part is that you don’t just come out once,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a daily occurrence.”

So far, none of the posters for NCOD have been torn down or vandalized, Spears said.

“The QSU put up between eight and 12 earlier this year and they were all torn down, which is very demoralizing,” she said.

Many students do not come out on NCOD because they fear negative peer reactions.

“Since NCOD occurs so early in the year, I didn’t feel comfortable going last year,” sophomore computer science major Evan Zubritsky said. “In going to a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, ally event I would thus out myself on campus. At the time I wasn’t even out to my roommate, whom I was most concerned about due to the obvious potential complications.”

Although Zubritsky is going to NCOD this year, he said he wished he could have participated in one of the activities which took place last year but will not be repeated.

“Last year they had a big cardboard door. The people who were coming out got to walk through it as a symbolic way of coming out of the closet,” Zubritsky said. “They didn’t anticipate how windy it would be and the door kept blowing down and people had to hold it up. It messed the ceremony up so they’re not going to do it this year.”