Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 01:10
Not only is October LGBT History Month, but Texas A&M’s GLBT Resource Center has built a week of programming around National Coming Out Day on Thursday. But the Resource Center isn’t the only organization involved in this week’s LGBT-related activities.
“The week is a combined effort to promote National Coming Out Day and as education about what it means to come out and all the experiences that may be associated,” said Ryan Cano, senior architecture major.
Although one objective of the week is to promote National Coming Out Day, it’s not the singular focus.
“Not all of our events are particularly coming-out related,” said Mickey Belaineh, senior political science major and student worker at the GLBT Resource Center. “It’s encompassing all different aspects of being GLBT-identified.”
Coming Out Week serves as a platform for LGBT visibility — not just to the A&M community at large, but to the rest of the LGBT community.
“Some people are considering coming out, but they’re afraid that they’re going to be alone,” said Steven Ahern, plant pathology graduate student.
Belaineh said acceptance of the LGBT community at A&M has been on a steady incline.
“A&M is constantly becoming a more welcoming environment,” Belaineh said. “Just from being here three years has been a drastic difference from my freshman year to now. However, there’s still progress to be made.”
Belaineh said the Coming Out Week events reflect the diversity within A&M’s LGBT community.
“The GLBT community is not monolithic by any means. Everybody has very different experiences and comes from very different backgrounds,” Belaineh said. “This is also an environment for all these people of various backgrounds and experiences to share that with one another and learn from one another’s experiences.”
Coming out varies greatly from person to person, but Cano said most people who have had coming out experiences seem to agree that it doesn’t happen all at once.
“It’s not just a one-day occurrence,” Cano said. “Coming out is a process.”
Cano said his coming out story occurred in three steps. First, he came out to his friends and classmates in his sophomore year of high school. Second, he came out to his sister in his junior year. Third, he came out to his parents during his senior year.
Although he didn’t think his friends and family would reject him for being gay, Cano said he put up safeguards in preparation for the worst. In his sister’s case, Cano waited for her to go away to college. This way there were 180 miles between them, just in case. For the same reason, Cano didn’t come out to his parents until after he had applied to multiple schools. He made sure he had a way out in case his parents didn’t accept him.
“A very difficult part of the process is coming to terms with having to lose my family and my closest friends and my entire support system,” Cano said. “It was, ‘if they don’t accept me, what am I going to do?’”
Although he had already come out as gay in high school, when Cano entered the new environment of Texas A&M, he said he had to come out again.
“Here, I have to start over again. Every day you have to come out in some sort of way,” Cano said. “Me riding on the bus with all these people there who I don’t know, wearing a rainbow bracelet — that’s in a small sense, kind of coming out to them.”
Senior theatre arts major Madi O’Brien describes her coming out experience as relatively easy and drama-free. Like Cano, she said it was a process of coming out to her close friends and family.
“I made sure and had personal, one-on-one coming out moments with the people I was really close to,” O’Brien said. “For me, I just got to a point where I was ready to be out, so I put my relationship status with my girlfriend on Facebook.”
O’Brien said one of her biggest realizations was that she had to let the people around her deal with her coming out in their own way.
“Even though this was something that I had been processing and dealing with personally for a long time, it was very new for everyone that I was around,” O’Brien said.
Cano said coming out isn’t just about the individual who is coming out. It also affects those connected with that individual.
“Coming out is as much about other people as it is about self-acceptance and coming to terms with your own identity and your own sexuality,” Cano said.
Belaineh said he hopes Texas A&M will continue to become more welcoming to the LGBT community.
“My biggest vision for what I would like A&M to be like is for it to be a place where LBGT-identified students who are incoming freshmen don’t have to think, ‘Man, am I going to be able to be out on the Texas A&M campus?’” Belaineh said.
Cano said he hopes that someday coming out won’t be such a big deal.
“For me it would be nice for coming out to not be as important,” Cano said. “I would like to see the day when people don’t need to come out.”