Rainbow Revelations

Get out your rainbows and pink triangles–Coming Out Day has arrived.

National Coming Out Day is a holiday observed worldwide on October 11. Founded in 1968, it serves as a means of raising awareness for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community and their allies (heterosexuals who openly support them).

In honor of the holiday, The P.R.I.D.E. (People Respecting Individual Diversity and Equality) Alliance will be hosting events in the MLK Plaza between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Besides music and food, the club will provide crafting materials so students can design their own rainbow-beaded necklaces, bracelets, and keychains. Stencils and spray paint will be available for supporters to

design their own T-shirts (shirts will not be provided – bring your own).

The theme of this year’s Coming Out Day is “Talk About It.” The following are stories from students who were brave enough to do just that.

Unconditional Love

I guess I could say I have known since I was very little that I was different from other kids. However, I didn’t learn what it meant to be gay until I was 11 or 12.

I was born into a Hispanic family in Miami and we moved to a small town south of Orlando when I was a child. I didn’t make many friends. I thought about what it meant to be called “gay” or “faggot” and why the kids called me that. I wanted to know what I could do to become more like those “normal” kids.

My mother, who has always loved me despite my preferences, tried to help by sending me to Catholic school. She thought if I were with more moral and educated people, I would be more socially accepted. She knew what I was, but she never talked to me about it.

My father and my sister would never mention it either. Relatives would often ask me, “When are you getting a girlfriend?” or “How many girls do you have chasing after you this time?” I would always look down, feeling ashamed.

There was pressure that they never spoke of, but I could feel it in my heart. I was the last of my family – there were no more males to carry on our name. They would remind me of the greatness of our family and how we fled Franco and fascism in Spain, only to be met with brutal dictatorship under Castro. They spoke of how our family suffered, how they endured to bring me to this level of life and how I must honor their memory by carrying on the name. All this was told in broken pieces, but the overall theme was not lost on my impressionable mind. I felt conflicted.

And so I rejected myself. I hated my differences – I hated what separated me from everyone else. Slowly my mother watched as the boy who used to be so tender became vengeful, angry and cold. My heart, hurt too much by the years of blind hatred, blind in both reason and scope, no longer wanted to love. I stopped being.

I met my first boyfriend and fell in love at 17. Years of holding back fell away as I devoted myself to him and his happiness. He was there for me when I needed him and helped me build courage for the day when I came out to my mother.

When I finally did tell my mom, she told me that she had known for a long time. She had long ago sent me to a therapist to try to bring back her loving boy, and it was there when she was alone with the therapist that he told her my secret. She told me that in that office she had cried more than she had ever cried before, and with tears of greater sorrow and sadness than she had ever wept. I looked at her furiously.

“I didn’t cry because of what you are,” she said. “I cried because of this world, which has already hurt you so much, that won’t accept you. I cried because you will have to suffer more than anyone else just to be happy. I cried because I cannot be there to stop them from hurting you. That is why I cried. I am and always will be proud of you.”

Things have changed since then. My first boyfriend and I are no longer together. Our relationship was something that just needed to end. I am no longer as angry as I was. In fact, I can never stop smiling now and I am rarely sad. I try my best to make friends and I am always on the lookout for ways to make other people smile. Everything that is now can be attributed to my mother – the woman who has always loved me, the woman who has always cared for me, the woman who cried because she couldn’t always protect me. I hope one day to be as strong as she is and I will always know there’s someone who will love me unconditionally.

-Jonathan Noriega

The Perfect Life

Throughout middle and high school, I was the stereotypical popular cheerleader. I had more boyfriends than I could count and even more friends. Even though I spent every weekend getting drunk at keg parties, I still managed to get good grades. I had the stereotypical “perfect” life and everyone knew it.

At 13 years old I began dating regularly, and I started to wonder when the boy-crazy feelings my friends and I ranted about would really kick in. I would stay up all night at sleepovers talking about how cute the boy in my English class was, even though all the while I was really wondering why I was drawn to the quiet girl in the back of the class with the cute nose and pretty eyes. I always felt different, and to counter that I forced myself to fit the mold of the perfect girl even more.

During the summer before my sophomore year of high school, I got a job at the local Carvel Ice Cream store. It was there that I met Aly. She had short hair and rainbow beads on her shoes. I didn’t quite know why I was so drawn to her, but I knew that I thought about her every moment when I wasn’t with her.

Our relationship escalated quickly. We talked every night until the sun came up the next morning. I changed my schedule at work so that we could work together more. When I was scheduled to work without Aly, she would often stop by “just to say hey.” It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was completely in love. Everything I had ever wanted to feel for someone else, I felt for her.

I waited until Aly and I had been together for a few weeks before telling everyone that I am a lesbian. I started with friends I cared about the least because I felt I could handle their rejection the best.

I was surprised at how accepting everyone was. The cheerleaders whom I thought would shun me just joked that I had never been able to keep a boy around for longer than a week.

From there I began telling my best friends. I was reduced to tears when Claire, my closest friend, hugged me and told me that she would still care about me.

Due to the reactions of my peers, I felt confident that coming out to my parents would be a breeze. I got up the nerve and told my mom on July 21, 2005. I wish I could accurately recount the words exchanged, but all I can remember is feeing cold inside. Looking into her eyes, I wondered if I was looking at my mom at all. With all of the tears, I couldn’t focus.

It took months of hiding my relationship with Aly and evading the subject of my sexuality before my mom finally realized that she couldn’t change me. Although my mom told me I wasn’t allowed to be gay, I never left Aly’s side or stopped believing in who I am. I told my mom that I had never felt so whole as I did when I was wrapped in Aly’s arms. I told her that I had never felt so comfortable in my own skin as I did after everyone knew I was a lesbian. I was never going back to living in shame. Finally, I told my mom that if she wanted a daughter, she would either have to find a new one or accept me for who I am.

I spent that Christmas Eve with my girlfriend, my mother and my stepfather. My mom added a small rainbow ornament to our tree and gave me a wink while I watched my stepdad and Aly put together a hopeless lawn decoration. It was the first time in my life that I had ever felt completely satisfied with my life.

-Ashlie Scott

Common Ground

The time between my inadvertent admission and my mom’s reaction was the longest five seconds of my life.

Picture it: ABC’s Pizza, early 2005. Play rehearsal was over and it was time to stop for lunch. There were four of us in a booth: my mom, the two friends who carpooled with us and me. As we ate, we discussed the play we were working on, how Mr. Wolfard was our favorite teacher at Blake High School and the other sorts of things high school kids talk about. I don’t even remember what started the conversation that changed my life, but all of a sudden my best friend Matt declared, “We all know Beth likes the girls.”

No, we didn’t all know that. My mother didn’t know that! I blanched and hissed at Matt that I hadn’t told my mother yet. Matt, characteristically flailing his thin arms,

replied that I hadn’t told him yet and that he was just making a joke. I thought I had told Matt – I could have sworn I had.

My defensiveness had already outed me, but it was up to me to finish the job.

“I’m bisexual,” I said.

As I watched my mom put down her pizza, a hundred different outcomes rushed through my mind. Would I be kicked out? Sent to an ex-gay camp? Sent to therapy?

After an eternity of holding my breath and bracing for the worst, my mom spoke.

“Every one is at some point in their life,” she calmly said, picking her pizza back up and taking another bite.

I just forced a smile and stared at the table as my friends declared their support as well. Nothing was going to happen to me. My friends still loved me. My mom still loved me. More than that, she encouraged me. She drove me to my first Gay Pride Parade, comforted me when my first girlfriend broke up with me, listened to me moon over the cute guy at the grocery store and even hugged me on Day of Silence.

Back at that ABC’s Pizza, I never thought there would be such a deluge of support when I finally came clean to people. I

underestimated the people in my life and I will never do that again.

To anyone who is still in the closet: Follow the theme of this year’s National Coming Out Day and “talk about it.” Find someone, anyone you know that you can trust and come out to him or her. That’s all you have to do. It’s not a requirement to be on a float in the Gay Pride Parade or to join P.R.I.D.E. Alliance – although both of those things are great fun and are encouraged. All you really have to do is be yourself and be honest.

-Beth Felton

Label Me Human

When I’m asked the question, “When did you come out?” it seems everyone expects me to tell them about one pivotal moment in my life.

It was never like that, though. I never screamed the truth about my sexual orientation to the world.

My coming out was a process that started in the seventh grade, and it still goes on to this day. I never had a moment where it felt like I was hit by a truck that carried the realization that I happened to be attracted to both sexes. The knowledge poured out of my subconscious in waves, bit by bit, until I accepted that gender didn’t matter to me when it came to finding someone attractive.

At first I did not accept it. I tried withevery ounce of my being to change and fought everyday against who I was. I put on a mask of lies and I lost myself in a haze of self-hatred.

Then one day in middle school that mask shattered. With one look at the person who would become my first girlfriend, I could no longer deny the feelings that were inside of me. I took the first step toward coming out by admitting to myself that I was living a lie.

With self-acceptance came the urge to find out more about bisexuality, so I searched the internet for hours looking for information and other people’s stories about coming to terms with themselves. The next step was my first confession.

The first person I told was a friend from math class in the eighth grade. She seemed the perfect person to tell because she had been in a relationship with another girl for about a year. I knew that I wasn’t alone, but after telling her I still wasn’t completely comfortable with myself.

I didn’t bring the subject up again until my crush confronted me about my behavior toward her. My feelings came spilling out in a tear-filled confession and then, to my utter shock, she kissed me. It felt as if the world stopped and my heart exploded with this one gesture of affection.

Entering high school brought many changes to my life, including one of the most important people I’ve ever met: a history teacher who would become my confidant. He was the one I could run to with every problem I had, including the confusing blur that was my love life. He helped me make healthy decisions with my life, and during my sophomore year he sponsored my school’s first Gay/Straight Alliance.

During my four years in high school I came out to all of my friends in one way or another. My true friends didn’t care about my sexual preference. I did face some people who felt that their personal beliefs and views made it impossible for them to carry on a friendship with me. However, the loss of those friendships hasn’t damaged me in any way. I am a firm believer in the words of Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

As for my parents, it was a bit more difficult. During my senior year I was the victim of a homophobic attack on campus. My friends turned out in droves to support me and I finally got the courage to admit my sexuality to my parents. They told me they loved me regardless because no matter what I’m still their daughter, and nothing can change that.

Most of my extended family is still in the dark, along with some of my friends here at USF. But with time and courage, I know that I will be loved for who I am. My name is Lara, label me human.

-Lara McDermott

The Right “Choice”

The day I came out to my mom – the person whose reaction I feared the most – was a day filled with interesting occurrences.

It was Monday, March 5. After school I went with a girl I was interested in to watch her get a tattoo done. When the painful process of body modification was complete, I asked her to be my girlfriend.

Despite the joy of a new romance, I was worried my mom would be angry with me for not telling her where I had been. I was driving home when I received a phone call from my mother.

“Meg, guess who’s here?” she asked me. “Griffin! We’re going out to dinner as soon as you get home!”

Griffin, my stepsister who lived in Richmond, had shown up

unannounced that evening. So my mom, my brother, Griffin and I went to dinner and all concerns about my prior whereabouts vanished from my mother’s mind. We arrived at the restaurant and

began catching up on what we had all been doing since we had last seen each other. We talked about how our lives were going and if anything had recently changed.

It was at that moment that I decided, completely spontaneously, to come out to my mom. I can’t explain how the thought

entered my mind so suddenly, but I knew I was not leaving that table without telling my mom I was gay. She saw me staring at my plate, petrified by what I was about to reveal.

“What’s wrong?” She asked.

“Mom, there’s something that I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while,” I said. I could see the concern etched in her face. Was it drugs? Was I pregnant? A million crazy worries probably crossed her mind in that moment.

“What is it, honey?” She asked.

“Well, I’ve known for a while, but – I’m attracted to girls. Very much so, and I think it’s really

important that I be completely honest with you because your opinion is extremely important to me.”

I bit my lip, apprehensive about her reaction. All of a sudden the strangest thing happened. My stepsister thrust her hand forward across the table for a high five and exclaimed, “That’s awesome!” What followed was a long series of sometimes tearful and difficult

discussions with my whole family.

My mother still does not completely accept my homosexuality. She believes that I will be unhappy if I “choose” to continue it. However, our relationship never suffered after I came out, and we still share a strong bond.

It took a great amount of courage to come out to my mother, but ultimately, releasing that burden was far more worthwhile than keeping my orientation a secret. She still loves me. My whole family does, and for that I’m very grateful.

-Megan Alfredson

Gay and Proud

Being gay can be very difficult.

When I was about 9 years old, I knew something was different about me but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I realized I was staring at other boys instead of girls. I thought it was just a phase. Around the age of 12 I joined a country line-dance team. That’s when I had my first “boy crush,” but I still thought it was just a phase.

Fast forward to my junior year of high school. I joined a support group for students and at the first meeting I introduced myself and said, “I think something is wrong – I like guys.”

“James, it’s OK. You are only gay,” the group said. I didn’t want to accept that, so for two years we argued back and forth every week.

Eventually I accepted it and started coming out to my friends. Some of them accepted me, some didn’t. Through that process I lost my best friend because I wanted to be real with him. That was very difficult to handle, like losing my stronghold in life.

When I entered college it was completely different from my high school days. People were accepting and loving, and they did not care who I was.

So during my freshman year, I officially came out to everyone but my family. Don’t get me wrong – I still had some internalized homophobia against myself. But the key is that I was able to call myself gay. That was a huge milestone in my life.

My sophomore year I was on the executive board for the PRIDE Alliance. For once in my life I was proud to be gay, and it was great. I thought I had everything going for me until it was time to come out to my parents.

This summer, between my junior and senior year, I got up the nerve to tell my parents that I was gay. I felt like I wanted to come clean and finally be myself. When I came out I had a friend with me for support. My folks said they were accepting but it would take time.

A couple of weeks later they had a sit-down meeting with me and told me that being gay was unacceptable in their eyes, that I chose to be a homosexual and, the biggest blow of all, that my leadership awards should be taken away. That was extremely tough for me to handle. To this day, communication with my family has been very limited because I don’t want that negative energy in or around my life.

I am me. I am James Geiger. I am gay and proud and no one can take that away.

Confucius said, “We are all one race, the human race.” Not black, white, gay, straight, Muslim or Christian… but HUMAN.

-James Geiger

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