Pride Week Panel: Coming Out a Constant Process
This is the third in a five-part series on this year’s Pride Week at OU.
SpeakOUT, an organization at Ohio University that trains students to speak to classrooms and organizations on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and ally (LGBTA) issues hosted a discussion panel in OU’s Baker Theater Tuesday night to discuss the process of “coming out” and other pertinent LGBTA issues.
The general consensus between the panelists was that coming out is a unique and evolving process for everyone.
The speakers on the panel were freshman Audrey Bonham, graduate student Steven Blalock, freshman Whitney Dashington, senior Tiffani Smith and graduate student Kris Greg, who also goes by Justin Credible.
Panelists led the discussion by sharing their own stories of coming out and detailing some of the challenges and reactions that accompany the process.
Audrey Bonham, who identifies as gay, said she dated men while she was in high school but fell in love with a girl her junior year. She only came out to her sister at first, but later came out to her mother and father separately. Audrey said the process went relatively smooth, but it is an ongoing one.
Steven Blalock, who identifies as gay, waited until his senior year of college before coming out, but said he always knew he was gay.
“I tell people I came into the delivery room the day I was born waving a rainbow flag,” he said.
But for him, it was not as easy as simply telling people he was gay.
“When I was younger in elementary school, it was really tough for me,” he said. “I was really isolated. I didn’t think I would make it to high school or college. I honestly thought I might kill myself.”
Blalock came out during his last year of college and had a mostly positive, but mixed reaction from family. He said although they are mostly supportive, he still sometimes wonders about their attitudes.
“My parents support that I’m gay,” he said. “But did they want a gay son?”
Whitney Dashington, who identifies as bisexual, has also experienced coming out as a long and ever-changing process.
Dashington came out before her senior year of high school to her mother and sister and told her father on the phone.
“Everyone was cool with it at first—until they realized it wasn’t a phase,” she said.
Dashington said she was particularly hurt when her father asked if she was a “faggot.”
She also described how straight people are sometimes ignorant to bisexuality.
“They think since I’m bi, I think all girls are cute,” she said. “No—some girls are ugly.”
Tiffani Smith, who is an ally, said that although she is a straight woman, she has always felt the desire to be supportive and give a voice to those who may not have one.
She described how she grew up in a small Ohio town and was one of the only minorities, which helped to shape her attitude.
Even though Smith is a straight woman, she said her father sometimes has a problem with her being actively involved in LGBTA issues.
“I have to still keep constantly coming out to my dad as straight,” she said.
Kris Greg, who identifies as transgendered or gender queer, was the oldest of the panelists and had the longest history of coming out. Greg is 30 years old and identified as queer when he went away to college over ten years ago. He now considers himself transgendered or alternatively gendered and does not consider himself male or female. Greg has spent the last 16 months on testosterone treatment and recently had “top surgery” to remove his breasts.
Greg also delved into a history of his sexuality and said he is very comfortable discussing it with those who have questions. He even attended this year’s Homecoming festivities with a sign that read “Ask a Tranny” and engaged others in conversations about sexuality and gender.
Panelists also discussed how their identity might affect future job prospects, talked about homophobia at OU and gave a closing piece of advice for students who may be questioning.
Amelia Shaw, Student Senate Vice-Commissioner for LGBT Affairs, said she was very satisfied with the event.
“I think it went really well,” she said. “We had a great variety of people on the panel so we heard a lot of different stories that showed how the coming out experience is different for everyone. We also had a lot of people asking questions, so hopefully that helped educate them so they can educate others.”