All colors of the rainbow came together yesterday on Old Women’s Center lawn in support and celebration of the annual National Coming Out Day.

The nationwide holiday was established in 1988, one year after 500,000 members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities marched on Washington, D.C. for recognition and equal rights. Thursday’s event, put on by the Queer Student Union and the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, featured speeches, music and a host of rainbow decorations around the lawn near Storke Tower.

Queer Student Union co-chair Nina Garcia said the day serves as an opportunity for people to share their personal stories.

“The event is a celebration of coming out in affirmation of [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex] people’s right to live an out and proud life,” Garcia said.

Thursday’s events kicked off at noon with music playing and tables set up with food and drinks for everyone who stopped by. Students were also invited to write messages for the UCSB community on a board displayed at the edge of the lawn.

The QSU officers welcomed each member of the growing audience by taking a Polaroid picture and directing them to a table where attendees could decorate their portraits with friends.

In addition, a rainbow made of multi-colored balloons hovered over a podium draped in a pride flag, which organizers said served as a motivational tool for students of all ages to share their stories with peers and supporters.

QSU Officer Amelia English said this year’s event introduced a new element to the festivities from former celebrations. Previously, QSU invited speakers to share their experiences, but during this event, QSU officers took to the podium as the key presenters.

“Last year, we were the ones looking up to the speakers,” English said. “Now others are looking up to us for our stories.”

Various students took to the microphone and shared their diverse experiences of coming out, whether it was to friends and family or simply admitting it to themselves and embracing their sexuality.

Garcia said the activities served the purpose of engaging the public with the LGBT population in order to acquaint everyone with the community’s issues.

“National Coming Out Day events are aimed at raising awareness of the LGBT community among the general populace in an effort to give a familiar face to the LGBT rights movement,” Garcia said.

Furthermore, Garcia said the event provides members of the community with a welcoming environment.

“Queer Student Union plans to help foster a safe space for all queer people by showing visibility, support, and celebration,” Garcia said.

As the participants who shared their experiences – which ranged from short and comical to heartfelt and emotional – stepped down from the podium, the audience on the lawn and students on their way to and from class took the time to applaud each story.

With about 55 people in attendance and additional students drifting in and out throughout the event, QSU Treasurer Edgar Mendoza said it was encouraging to see a large turnout of students show up in support of the ceremony.

“It’s the visibility that’s increased this year,” Mendoza said. “It’s an affirmation that UCSB is trying to promote a safe zone for the community.”