Students share coming out stories

College students shared poignant memories and past experiences from their lives on Oct. 6, as part of the 6th Annual Coming Out Monologues, sponsored by Prism.

“Having a space for students to tell their stories is important,” said Prism adviser Michael Miragliotta. “This event is empowering for them. They can finally stand up and let the world know how they felt when they came out as (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning and Intersexed) GLBTQI or an ally.”

Emily Carpenter, sophomore music education major, is chair of National Coming Out Day and National Day of Silence for Prism. “This event is really to (allow) people a chance to hear others say, ‘This is who I am,'” she said. “It’s also (held) for people to know that they don’t have to hide a part of who they are, (because) they will be supported.”

The event took place in the New Library Auditorium, a place Carpenter felt was an “intimate setting.”

Rainbow flags decorated the cover of a piano placed toward the front of the room. Speakers had the choice of sitting on a blue corduroy saucer chair or a piano bench as they told their monologue.

Prism fundraising chair Heather Lemley, sophomore music education major, participated in the event. “These experiences need to be shared,” she said. “These stories need to be told. They break down stereotypes about GLBTQI people and educate the public. ”

The first speaker at the event was Miragliotta. He talked about how coming out is not just a one-time event. “You don’t just come out once and that’s the end,” he told the audience. “Coming out is a continuous process.” This sentiment was repeated throughout the night by other speakers.

Miragliotta also gave the audience advice for listening to the other monologues.

“When you listen to (the other) stories, remember what they’re telling you is not the end,” he said. “These students are braver than you can imagine. This is only one of the times they will have to stand up and come out.”

After Miragliotta, 11 speakers took to the stage individually for seven minutes each to tell their stories. They did not use microphones, but despite this, Carpenter said, the audience seemed very engaged.

“It felt like everyone who came to the Monologues wanted to be there, wanted to hear the stories,” Carpenter said. “There was a lot of audience interaction.”

Some monologues included sad material, such as initial intolerant reactions by loved ones and a forced trip “back into the closet.” There were also monologues with more hopeful tones. A few speakers worried about telling friends, but ultimately received an accepting response.

Coming out to family members, especially parents, was a topic heavily addressed in the monologues. “People need to know that coming out is not easy, even with the most liberal of family and friends,” Miragliotta said. “There is always some risk or anxiety.”

A distinct part of this year’s monologue was the story of 18-year-old Mike McCarthy, as told by his friend Erika.

“I wanted my story heard,” he wrote. “It’s important to me because (this is) a peaceful way of speaking your mind,”

McCarthy’s monologue gave a short narrative addressing the reason he could not be present at the event: The teenager was kicked out of his parents’ house and forced to live in California with his grandmother. McCarthy wrote his mother’s reasoning for kicking him out was “faggots are not allowed in my house.”

“(Writing the monologue) really made me realize that things haven’t been easy, but there have been some awesome people who really helped me,” McCarthy wrote.

Some monologues did not tell past stories, but instead voiced concerns about future coming out experiences. Many worried about colleagues and bosses. Those pursuing a path in education questioned aloud if they would have to tell students or parents, and what effect it would have on their professional career.

According to Lemley, this event is important because “not everyone is so willing to sit down and listen to our stories. Not everyone is so willing to say, ‘I’m OK with who you are, and you can say what you want.'”

After all the monologues, Carpenter conducted an “open forum,” where audience members had a chance to comment and share their own experiences.

Miragliotta said, “If one person walked away thinking about the difficulties of coming out, then this program was successful.”