Hoisting their rainbow-colored flag on Crescent Hill by the Marshall Student Center, PRIDE Alliance – USF’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) alliance – hosted a “coming out” ceremony to commemorate National Coming Out Day.
Attendees were invited on the rainbow, streamer-edged stage to share their stories of coming out, or revealing their non-heterosexuality, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Some people went up to the open mic and told their coming out stories.
The coming out stories on stage created a domino effect, said PRIDE vice president Ashley Gunn, a junior majoring in psychology and anthropology.
PRIDE President Kindell Workman, a junior majoring in political science, took the stage around noon to tell her story.
“I didn’t know I was different until I heard the world ‘gay,'” she said. “I thought that every little girl liked other little girls.”
Workman came out as bisexual to her friends in the eighth grade.
She first heard the word in a gym class locker room when girls would be teased for stray glances falling upon one another while changing. Workman said she always tried to leave the locker room as quickly as possible to avoid any uncomfortable situation.
Later that year, two of her close friends told her they were bisexual.
“Bisexual?” Workman said. “I was like, ‘You can like both? That’s possible?'”
Her friends told her they thought she was also bisexual, which at first Workman objected to.
“It took me a couple weeks for (the word) to stick,” she said. “It made me a lot more open with myself, and I adapted to the word,” she said. “I’ve always liked girls, but I guess there’s a word for it.”
After coming out to herself, Workman said thinking about how to come out to her family was nerve-wracking. Eventually, she was “forced out” at a New Year’s party.
While her parents and sisters were supportive, not all her family has come around.
Her grandmother still hopes by attending USF, she will fall in love with a man, she said.
If people did not want to tell their stories on stage, they could wear a button or spray-paint themselves or their belongings to show support for the event. A total of 186 people were spray-painted throughout the day, and 224 buttons were given away, PRIDE treasurer Stacy Noland, said.
Zach Huntsman, a freshman majoring in theatre and education, said he feared telling his Catholic mother and 300-pound, 6-foot-6 father.
“(His mother) was, like, ‘Finally,'” he said. “‘Me and your father have known this since you were 5. We’re afraid you were going to be straight. We already have your brother. We wanted something interesting.'”
Huntsman said since then, coming out to friends and family has been easier.
Gunn said she was pleased with the turnout.
PRIDE is hosting more events this week as a part of LGBT history week on campus in collaboration with the Transgender Student Alliance and the Feminist Student Alliance.