In the days leading up to National Coming Out Day last October, the student body at Renaissance High School submitted 225 anonymous posts to a box dealing with mental health, sexuality, and other teen angsts. It filled a hallway that became known as the “Coming Out Wall.”
This project is now an exhibit at Affirmations, one of the country’s largest LGTBQ community centers, open free to the public from 11a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday in downtown Ferndale, and the exhibit is will launch Ferndale Pride.
The rainbow of experiences became a school-wide conversation about how to reach struggling students. Thereafter, RHS school leadership established a weekly support group for LGBTQ students, to meet during seminar period. The wall’s buzz prompted students to collect solidarity letters, in addition to more anonymous posts, posted opposite the Coming Out Wall, which lasted through October.
Affirmations officially opened the exhibit to the public on April 11, showing people outside of the RHS community the spectrum of experiences that students faced.
Visitors toured the gallery for the first hour and heard from a student panel, where six members of the RHS LGBTQ+ Alliance were asked about their feelings about the wall and school climate. The crowd listened empathetically.
RHS junior Callie Reese joined the panel, because she “wanted to have a voice.”
RHS senior Imaniyah Drain said it took her classmates much “bravery” to post.
After the panel discussed school climate and outcomes of the wall, the audience interacted with the students.
Peter Brockhammer, a visitor, found the Coming Out Wall to be “a form of art,” he said as he viewed the posts.
“Hopefully when the Gay Pride comes in May, a lot of people will see this,” he said.
Guests are also able to come out and respond to anonymous posts after the visit.
Affirmations hosts the Coming Out Wall exhibit through June, and the exhibit is included as part of the Ferndale Pride launch event at 6:30 p.m. May 30. Affirmations is located at 290 West 9 Mile Road in Ferndale.