WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — The flag of acceptance rose over the Jefferson Community College campus on Monday.

On October 11, members of the Watertown community, JCC and local organizations joined to honor National Coming Out Day. The group stood at the college’s student center to share words of acceptance and raise the LGBTQIA+ flag.

Organizer of the event and Victim’s Assistance Center Campus Advocate Destiny Walker said she hopes that National Coming Out Day honors times that may be exciting or scary. She said their goal is to make sure individuals know they are supported.

“October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we want to make sure survivors always know that they’re not alone and that there are people in the community that support them. With October 11 being National Coming Out Day, we want that same message,” Walker shared. “My hope is to look at one another, and can put the other things to the side and truly see a human next to us.”

Speaking at the event was ABC50’s Alex Hazard. He spoke to his experiences in and out of the North Country.

“I think Northern New York is full of loving and accepting people that choose to love, not just us, but everyone they come in contact with,” Hazard said. “And while I believe there is, unfortunately, underlying homophobia just about everywhere. The intention here, I think really is to lead with love.”

Hazard also shared his experience moving to a new area and the homophobia he experienced. He later moved back to the North Country and has helped organize Clayton’s first Pride event in June 2021 and advocated in the village of Clayton to allow Pride flags to be flown.

All in all both event organizers and attendees shared that they hope this flag-raising will spread a message of acceptance and understanding in the surrounding community.

“It’s important to see the adults and the resources that the Northern New York community has to offer the LGBTQ plus community, that there is support and help for students that if they are questioning their sexuality or gender identity,” NNY Q-Center Coordinator Michael Kelley said. “Or if they need help educating themselves or others, that there are resources and that there are adults here that I can help.”

Following the flag-raising ceremony, JCC students were provided with opportunities to campus and community resources and PRIDE swag.