Panel addresses advancement of gay and lesbian community
When Terri Jentz was two years old, growing up in the Midwest with Republican parents, she found herself developing an infatuation with another girl living down the street. She decided to tell her mother that she had a crush on this girl.
“No,” Jentz’s said. “You like this girl. You don’t have a crush on her because girls don’t have crushes on other girls.”
At the age of 26, Jentz told her parents she is a lesbian. She said her mother was devastated at the time, though she has since come around. Until that point, Jentz said she had kept her fantasies of women hidden away.
“I kept this secret life to myself through my adolescence,” she said. “I didn’t experiment with my sexuality at all.”
Times are changing for the gay and lesbian community said Jentz and two other panelists who spoke in the UMC West Ballroom on Monday as part of this year’s Conference on World Affairs. Titled “Out of the Closet and into the Suburbs,” the talk described how there are noticeable differences in struggles for gays and lesbians from one generation to the next.
Apart from Jentz, whose novel “Strange Piece of Paradise” was a finalist in the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award, the panel consisted of Evelyn Resh, a frequent lecturer on issues of women’s health and sexuality, and Fintan Steele, a molecular biologist.
Resh said the gay and lesbian community today has greater access to community after coming out than when she was growing up. She said individuals’ parents still may not be happy upon learning the news, but their lives aren’t at risk the way they used to be.
Panelists also discussed the continued internal fears they have carried with them over the years. Resh said she remembers one conversation she had with her now 17-year-old daughter, where she asked her if she was a lesbian. The daughter answered no, which gave Resh a sense of relief.
“The fact of the matter is that, when I was 19 years old and coming out, it was not easy,” Resh said. “The homophobia that’s there, and that’s internalized, is real.”
Steele said he also has internal fears, living in Massachusetts with his husband.
“We have lots of friends in our neighborhood, but we hang out with our gay couple friends . there’s still an internalized fear of what [people] are really thinking,” Steele said.
Jentz said that these fears have caused her to become schooled not to take her partner’s hand in public, for fear of possible backlash.
“We would not take the chance. It would just be outside the realm of possibility,” she said.
All three panelists did say, though, that they are capable of looking past these difficulties to enjoy the finer moments of life. Jentz said that she likes to look at what she has as a gay woman which those in the heterosexual community do not have.
“I’m happy to have the things I do have, and willing to feel okay with the difficulties I have undergone.”
On the other side of the generation gap, younger members of the audience expressed some differing views from those of the panel. Hannah Reinish, a 20-year-old former student of CU who has been attending the Conference on World Affairs since she was 16, said she agreed that it was probably a lot harder for gays and lesbians in the past generation.
For her, she said she does not seek out only members of the gay and lesbian community for support.
“I don’t identify other gay people as the sole part of my community,” she said. “I identify other people in Boulder as part of my community.”
Mike Duncan, a 22-year-old senior psychology major, said that being gay is not something that is a big deal to him. It just is what it is.
“They have such a hugely different perspective on what it means to be gay,” he said.
Duncan also said he did understand where the panelists were coming from.
“I can see their perspective. Like they said, ‘it is much easier for (the community) today,'” he said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer George Plaven at email@example.com.