Salukis come out for LGBTQ+ history month

By Austin Phelps and Kallie Cox, Staff Reporters

As part of LGBTQ+ history month, students and faculty have told their stories of coming out, all experiences unique.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, one out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay or lesbian. One out of ten Americans has someone close to them that is transgender.

Kiera Yard (She/Her Queer/Demisexual)

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Demisexuality is a sexual orientation characterized by not experiencing sexual attraction until a strong emotional connection is established with a specific person, according to Dictionary.com.

Kiera Yard, vice president of the Saluki Rainbow Network, said her coming out experience was filled with self-hate and worry of what God would think of her.

“I am a Christian woman,” Yard said. “So the hardest part for me was accepting that God would accept me.”

Yard said she felt like the day she came out was the day God no longer loved her.

“I felt like as soon as I accepted it, that was the day I started sinning,” Yard said. “Not the emotions that I was having, or any of the attraction I was feeling was the sin, it was the accepting it and embracing it and like being proud of it.”

Yard said there were many queer people in her family and people in her family don’t typically come out, they just love who they love. She said while she appreciates this, it has been difficult to come out to her friends and boyfriend of three years.

“I [wanted] him to know this part of me but I [didn’t] know how to tell him without sounding like I wanted to pursue something else,” Yard said. “He was very accepting of it. He asked a lot of questions which is expected but it was really cool to come out to him as well.”

Yard said religious youth who are afraid to come out should read Romans 3:23.

The New International Version of the Bible’s Romans 3:23 reads:  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

“So we lie, we cheat, there are some things that we do, and I don’t think that being gay is any worse than anything else,” Yard said. “God loves you no matter what so don’t let that stop you from being who you are.”

Yard said her advice to LGBT youth who maybe aren’t religious, is to find their community.

“Some people in your life aren’t going to be super accepting but I am under the impression that you get to choose your family,” Yard said. “So if you do not already have a super accepting family, find community and turn them into your family, we have chosen family for a reason.”

Alex Harvey (They/Them Queer/Gender-fluid)

According to Merriam-Webster gender-fluid is “of or relating to being a person whose gender identity is not fixed.”

Alex Harvey, a senior majoring in marketing, said they came out two years ago to their family in a letter.

“Pretty much what I did was [write the first sentence as] ‘I am a lesbian,’ in bold underlined words,” Harvey said. “I explained how I’ve known my whole life and I’m not confused or influenced by anyone.”

Harvey said they ended their letter saying they came out through a letter because they were scared of how their parents would respond.

“That’s why I did it in this letter and by coming out [it’s given me] a state of mind where I needed to be to be happy and proud of how I identify,” Harvey said.

Harvey said after their parents read the letter the reaction went pretty well.

“They called me the next day in the afternoon crying in tears like ‘We are so proud of you for coming to tell us this we never meant to have you feel this way,’” Harvey said.

Coming out to their parents was the scariest part of the coming out process, Harvey said.

“Whenever I would talk about gay stuff like in homework assignments or something like that [they would be like] you might want to tone that down or just rewrite something else,” Harvey said.

Harvey said LGBTQ+ youth that are scared to come out should maybe bring up some LGBT news that’s happening right now to their parents, to test the waters.

“Pretty much my one tip is make a plan, be confident with yourself […] see how it goes,” Harvey said.

Koady Cantu (He/Him Gay)

Koady Cantu, a freshman studying art, said he came out when he was a junior in high school at 17-years-old.

He knew he was part of the queer community at 13, Cantu said. He shifted between non-binary and gender-fluid for the longest time until he settled with he/him.

Cantu said he had originally tried to come out sooner at 14 but was shunned by his friend which intimidated him from coming out for a couple more years.

“I don’t know what happened but junior year really turned around and I came out to the public,” Cantu said. “I did not care what anybody thought. I just did my own thing.”

Cantu said his family’s reaction to his coming out was mixed.

“They kinda accepted it but it was strained,” Cantu said. “They had fake smiles for a while till they just had to get over it and they were like ‘OK, this is your life now.’”

Cantu said when it came to telling his friends it became harder the closer they were to him.

“I didn’t want to risk losing their friendship, [but] if they are true friends they will stay,” Cantu said.

Cantu said the LGBTQ+ community was accepting of his coming out.

“Especially those online are very, very accepting,” Cantu said. “That is where I found a lot of friends that I could relate to or ask questions and help find myself.”

Cantu said everyone has their own coming out experiences.

“There is going to be another [day] and you are going to want to experience that. Just [hang] in there because it will get better,” Cantu said.

Vernon Cooper, LGBTQ resource center coordinator

Vernon Cooper, LGBTQ+ resource center coordinator, said he did not have much of a coming out story.

“Where and when I grew up there wasn’t really a culture of understanding non-heterosexuality as an identity,” Cooper said. “It was only a practice. So when I left for college I just started dating who I wanted and never bothered to come out.”

Cooper said students may be dealing with internalized beliefs about what it means to be LGBTQ+.

“This can lead them to resist seeking out community or campus resources,” Cooper said. “Even after a student has decided to come out, they may face the shifting perceptions of themselves in situations such as classrooms [and] residence halls.”

(See more: Campus Pride LLC designed for LGBTQ students to be welcomed)

Cooper said in an ideal world there would be no need to come out at all but allies can make this process easier by making themselves available.

“We can’t dictate what all of society will do, but only ourselves,” Cooper said. “All you can do is hope that you made yourself available and clear enough as an ally that your friends or classmates will trust you.”

Cooper said coming out you owe yourself your own happiness.

“And those who love you owe you the decency of not standing in your way,” Cooper said. “And you’ve got a family of Salukis here who are happy to plug that gap if you’ll have us.”

Staff reporter Austin Phelps can be reached at aphelps@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @austinphelps96.

Staff reporter Kallie Cox can be reached at kcox@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @KallieC45439038.

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