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LGBTQ coming out day

October 20, 2016

DILLON NELSON

Staff Reporter| djn005@latech.edu

Members of PRISM celebrate LGBTQ pride on Coming Out Day with rainbow streamers. Photo courtesy of PRISM.

Members of PRISM celebrate LGBTQ pride on Coming Out Day with rainbow streamers. Photo courtesy of PRISM.

 

Tuesday, Oct. 16 was National Coming Out Day, a holiday meant to encourage people to come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer and join a community which has grown safer and more accepted as the years have gone by.

 

Shawn Igou, a junior graphic design major and the president of the Louisiana Tech chapter of PRISM, said she believes the annual observance of this holiday allows people in the LGBTQ community to be open and brave in their own skin.

 

“To me, personally, it means an opportunity to celebrate queer visibility and the chance to be happy and celebrate who we are and how far we’ve come as a community,” Igou said.

 

She said she believes the holiday has gone a long way toward normalizing the community nationwide.

 

“Gay and lesbian people have come a long way from being publicly ridiculed, and American culture is even beginning to grow more accepting of transgender people,” Igou said. “We still have to worry about the occasional threat of violence, but at least now when horrible things happen to the LGBTQ community, the whole country reacts instead of just sweeping it under the rug.”

 

Igou said though there is more compassion for people in the LGBTQ community, many people are still uncomfortable with such alternative lifestyles. She said those people need to try to understand the human element of the issue and set aside their prejudices.

 

“They should just keep in mind that sexuality and gender identity does not change the content of a person’s character, and you can be a wonderful person regardless of your gender or sexuality,” Igou said.

 

Hannah Craft, a freshman theater major, said she had to grapple with this issue when she came out to her parents by writing a letter. She said she had expressed her fear of being kicked out of her parents’ house in the letter and had planned to find alternative housing if need be.

 

“Due to my mother and father’s religious background, they didn’t agree with being gay,” Craft said. “My mom called a pastor within our church who is an ex-lesbian, and, eventually, they had me talk with her.”

 

She said this led to further familial turmoil, but, ultimately, her parents more or less came to terms with her sexuality.

 

“My mom isn’t really accepting and is a little in denial, but she still loves me regardless,” Craft said. “My dad is a little better about the gay thing and makes jokes with me, and we’ll comment on women being hot but just not when my mom is around.“

 

William Hartman, a faculty adviser for PRISM, said he grew up confused about the feelings he was having and did not come to understand them until he was older.

 

“It was difficult because I went to high school in Shreveport and my father was in the Air Force,” Hartman said. “It was a relatively long time ago, so there wasn’t as much awareness or understanding in society as there is today.”

 

Hartman said there was no real community for LGBTQ people, and the consensus around the country was largely negative.

 

“I had no idea there was such a thing as being openly and proudly gay,” Hartman said. “There were no role models, and all I knew was, ‘Hey, there are homosexuals, and you shouldn’t be one of those kinds of people.’”

 

Hartman said he was finally able to put together the feelings he was having during his sophomore year at University of Houston.

 

“I guess it took going to college and being in a more intellectual environment to begin to put together the pieces,” Hartman said. “When you get outside of your own milieu or the place you grew up in, you meet other people, and you get to experience new, positive attitudes.”

 

Hartman said even though he has openly been a part of the LGBTQ community since his sophomore year in college, there are still aspects of it he has only recently learned about.

 

“Some of it is relatively new to me, and I’ve actually learned quite a bit in my role as faculty adviser,” Hartman said. “I’ve learned the subtle difference in gender and the difference between sexuality and gender identity.”

 

He said the Internet has allowed these issues to come to the forefront after decades of being misunderstood and stifled.

 

“There have always been people who have had these feelings, but there was never really a consciousness of it, so I think social media has gone a long way toward getting rid of the isolation that LGBTQ people have felt,” Hartman said. “Now there are well established communities across the Internet that help people begin to understand that, yes, there are other people who have these same feelings.”

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