The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center is a group that celebrates diversity by providing safe places for students to identify with others and outlets to share experiences.
Tuesday night marked the annual celebration of LGBT National Coming Out Day, co-sponsored by the Student Outreach Retention Center for Equity.
The celebratory event brought students, allies and other community members together to listen and share stories of acceptance, struggle and hope.
“There is not one coming out story,” said Steph Wilenchek, the director of the LGBT Resource Center. “There are many.”
A pseudo-closet enclosed with a graffiti-covered door marked with supporters’ signatures was filled with feather boas, a rainbow flag and casual clothing. Inside the closet was a microphone, which participants used to share memories of hurt, love and encouragement with the audience.
“It is super cool,” said Gabrielle Friesen, a 19-year-old freshman history and women and gender studies double major. “I really enjoy having a safe space and hearing about other people’s experiences.”
Some memories of positive reactions from family members and peers were heard. These included excitement from parents and friends, mothers elated enough to give a full embrace while driving, best friends who stood by relentlessly and allies.
On the other hand, some participants shared more painful experiences including tearful parents, being “outed” in school, facing rumors and stereotypes, suicidal thoughts and lack of support systems.
“There is a choice, but it is not the choice people are thinking,” said Bri Duke, a 19-year-old sophomore Asian studies major. “I did not decide that I am going to be gay because it is awesome and different, but because this is how I feel. To deny that part of self is denial of self, and just because it is possible, does not mean that it is best.”
Another issue addressed by speakers was that homosexuality is sometimes perceived as not really existing except for on television shows like “Will and Grace.”
“The worst time was when a cousin said he did not believe gay people existed, but refused to push things on people,” Duke said. “I exist.”
Many said they became aware of who they identify as before knowing how to describe it, although one contributor said you do not know you are gay until to you admit it to yourself.
“I never knew anything different,” Duke said. “I knew since I was seven and was dressing like one of the Backstreet Boys.”
Friesen addressed a lack of understanding and consideration from people outside the LGBT community.
“I feel like there are many people who say they are okay with it, but there is a lot of ignorance of what is acceptable,” she said. “There is an awareness of things that are going on, and there are simple things to show that you are an ally, like keeping up with correct terminology.”
Even though high numbers were not the goal for the event, many said they felt truly inspired.
“For events like this, I try not to focus on numbers,” said Kevin Correa, assistant director of the LGBT Resource Center. “It was high impact, and there were great stories. A whole gambit of emotions was on display tonight.”
Contact CU Independent Writer Christine Larsen at Christine.email@example.com.