To celebrate “National Coming Out Day,” a diverse panel of speakers assembled Tuesday at Cal Poly to discuss issues concerning both the gay and straight community in the Veranda Cafe.
“Straight Answers from Across the Rainbow” was organized as a senior project by Caitlin Gibb and Rebeka Levin, both psychology seniors. Gibb and Levin opened the discussion by reading a poem entitled “Yes, I Believe,” which used quotes from people who have been affected by prejudice.
“I am one of the lucky ones, I guess,” Levin said. “I survived the attack that left me in a coma for three weeks, and in another year I will probably be able to walk again.”
Angela Kramer, an English freshman, was the first speaker on the panel. She discussed coming to terms with her homosexuality and what it was like coming out.
“I have always known there was something different with me and I was constantly reminded of that at school,” Kramer said.
She was a tomboy growing up until the eighth grade when she decided to grow her hair out and be more like a “normal” high school student, something she now regrets. Kramer said even though she was accepted at school, she took out her aggressions on her family.
By her junior and senior years, Kramer began to date girls.
“I have never felt so comfortable and confused at the same time,” Kramer said.
Kramer said she is still working at accepting herself as a lesbian, but doesn’t promote her sexuality.
“I don’t have any shirts that say ‘I Love Lesbians’, or ‘gays-r-us’,” Kramer said.
Adrian Herrera is an aerospace engineering junior, a Cal Poly lacrosse player, the vice president of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and he is gay. Herrera spoke about not fitting the stereotype of a gay man, and how it has affected his life.
Herrera came out to his parents, who are both from the Philippines, and said that his father still doesn’t truly understand his sexuality.
“Don’t let it get in the way of your studies, or else,” Herrera said was his parents only warning.
Amy Narevsky discussed being an “ally,” which is a straight person who is supportive of homosexuals. Narevsky decided to become any “ally” after hearing of Matthew Shepard at a conference. Shepard murdered in an anti-hate crime in Laramie Wyoming in 1998.
“An ally is just someone who is there to support someone who is part of the lesbian, gay or bisexual community,” Narevsky said.
Rev. Susan Brecht of the Atascadero United Church of Christ, discussed how being gay fits into religion, and Marie Moore, an activist for gay rights, discussed upcoming issues in politics that may affect the gay community.
Besides the speakers on the panel, there were representatives from clubs from both on and off campus; including The Pride Alliance, Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Gays Lesbians Bisexuals United (GLBU) and others.
Josel Salalima, a computer science junior and the vice president of GLBU, told his story of coming out to his sister last Friday. He did this over AOL instant messenger by telling her to go to the GLBU Web site. It took her a little while to understand but once she did she was happy for him, Salalima said.
“It’s not a path that you can choose to go down, it is a path chosen for you when you are born,” Salaima said.
After the show, both Salalima and Kramer said that both of their experiences of being gay at Cal Poly have been overwhelmingly positive.
The panel was only one part of National “Coming Out” day. Information booths were set up in the UU, which handed out pamphlets and ribbons. There was also an open mike for those who wanted to speak.
The Pride Alliance will be holding the Respect Zone Ally Program Friday. The program hopes to teach heterosexual students, faculty, and staff, how to speak out against homophobia.