Rafael JM Herrero
On the evening of Friday, Oct. 9, USF hosted a panel of four students convened by Queer Alliance for National Coming Out Day (NCOD). Founded in 1988, NCOD is celebrated every year on October 11. This year was the first time Queer Alliance (QA) at USF organized an event for the occasion.
The host and organizer of the event, QA Political Coordinator Grace Berg, strutted around the students asking successive rounds of questions on their personal experiences of coming out, on the paths that led to that opening up, and its short-term and long-term consequences. She inquired if, looking back, the panelists would have done things differently and if they had recommendations for those wanting to come out.
“I’m glad that this panel has taken place, as a student of USF, to see faculty and staff and members of school organizations talk about their stories and share them in a way that’s very intimate and important for students to see,” said Vice President of the Queer Alliance, Fran Carr.
All members identified as cisgender. Whereas transgender may refer to an individual whose gender identity or expression does not correspond to the biological sex assigned at birth, cisgender refers to those whose identity or expression aligns with that attributed upon delivery. Interviewees recalled the widely accepted idea that all human sexual identity, orientation and behavior falls on a spectrum or continuum. These characteristics are fluid, and can change through time.
Panelists described the path to determining sexual identity as a psychological journey that requires many years of self-discovery. Two panelists, both male and female, mentioned awareness of their sexuality at the age of four. All four were ready to come out in high school.
Lee Rost, a 21-year old molecular cell biology junior student at Mills College, was invited to speak at this event by her brother Fei Rost, a USF junior in Fine Arts and Biology. Both identify as LGBTQ and, although they have the same age, they are not twins. Both were adopted. Ms. Rost said, “The first step is self-acceptance. Then, wait for when you think you are ready to show other people who you really are.”
Elliot Devore, a USF staff member involved in student life and housing, mentioned that he was brought up in Tennessee in a strong Baptist community but spent a lot of time watching GiGi Gorgeous, a flamboyant Canadian transgender celebrity, on YouTube. He recommended considering one’s personal situation before deciding to divulge. “Ask yourself,” he said, “do you depend on your parents? Are they paying for your tuition? Do you have a place to sleep? Is it better to wait till you’ve got your college degree?”
Cleigh Macias, a 19 year old USF sophomore psychology major did not have to be asked to speak on the panel — he volunteered. He said, “Telling my siblings was not hard at all. But my dad was the scariest part.” He explained why he was certain his father would never understand. “I told my dad in my senior year. He said to me ‘Cleigh, you’re my son. You are still the little boy I used to look out for.’”
Macias paused for thought and added, “Saying the words help. It’s like looking in the mirror, seeing myself as whole.”
Devore, whose community professed an LGBTQ-cure through prayer, said, “I was taunted and lost my group of friends. But coming out gave me permission to break a lot of the expectations others had of me.” He laughed and made a wide arc with his arms. “It’s been glitter and rainbows ever since!”
Tin Dinh, a sophomore majoring in graphic design and computer science, serves as the ASUSF Senate LGBTQ representative. Dinh mentioned that he actually came out twice. First, as bisexual, because he thought it would be accepted better, and then as gay. He said, “Coming out is an expression of love.” He told the audience that he came out to a girl on MSN Messenger and the very next day everyone knew at school.
Macias gave practical advice. “Choose who you want to tell. Say to yourself: ‘This is the day I tell myself. This is the day I tell my sis. This is the day I tell my best friend.’ Tell them, ‘Please don’t tell other people. I wanna do it the way I wanna do it.’”
Asked about the personal meaning of NCOD, Ms. Rost said, “Coming Out Day for me really means taking a step back and appreciating how far I’ve come and hoping it gets better for everyone else.”
Macias added, “For me, it’s like I have another birthday!”
QA hosts meetings every Tuesday evening on the UC 4th Floor.
Photo courtesy of Rafael Herrero