WEBVTT 00:00:01.000 --> 00:00:06.000 music 00:00:06.000 --> 00:00:12.000 Every coming out story is unique. Some people come out to their parents multiple times. 00:00:12.000 --> 00:00:19.000 You can email or text your mom and tell her your story and tell her your identity every day and even then she'll introduce- 00:00:19.000 --> 00:00:27.000 And you can even introduce her to your boyfriend and she'll still call to tell you about some nice girl that she met at church. 00:00:27.000 --> 00:00:31.000 'Wouldn't you like to meet her?' and then we have parents who start asking suspicious questions 00:00:31.000 --> 00:00:37.000 after glancing at the best female friend, Mack, not Mackenzie. 00:00:37.000 --> 00:00:42.000 And parents, huh, they aren't the end all in the coming out journey. 00:00:42.000 --> 00:00:51.000 You come out to your family, your friends, your coworkers, your teachers, your school, your pets and to yourself. 00:00:51.000 --> 00:00:53.000 And with that here we go. 00:00:53.000 --> 00:00:64.000 [music] 00:01:04.000 --> 00:01:07.000 Let's call the person 'Blinky'. 00:01:07.000 --> 00:01:11.000 It was the first time I'd seen my mentor in 3 years. 00:01:11.000 --> 00:01:16.000 Mark is a professor of Philosophy at Mt Angel Seminary, the Catholic seminary for aspiring priests, 00:01:16.000 --> 00:01:20.000 and had just come back from working on his Ph.D. in Belgium. 00:01:20.000 --> 00:01:23.000 I was excited, scared and anxious to see him. 00:01:23.000 --> 00:01:28.000 I met him on 'The Hill' and needed to explain him, update him on my life. 00:01:28.000 --> 00:01:34.000 'I met someone,' I started. 'Oh! What's her ''" what's their name?' 00:01:34.000 --> 00:01:38.000 I wasn't ready to give that pronoun away and Mark could tell. 00:01:38.000 --> 00:01:44.000 I paused and stammered. He assisted with his every present sense of humor intact, 00:01:44.000 --> 00:01:47.000 'Let's call the person Blinky.' 00:01:47.000 --> 00:01:51.000 I shared that in the last year of college, I went to a student group on campus where folks played a game 00:01:51.000 --> 00:01:55.000 where you stood up and moved around the room if you identified with someone in the room. 00:01:55.000 --> 00:01:57.000 I think we call it Train Wreck today. 00:01:57.000 --> 00:01:61.000 I stood up and moved across the room when the statement was, 00:02:01.000 --> 00:02:10.000 'I want to meet all my friends and neighbors who think someone in here of the same sex is cute.' 00:02:10.000 --> 00:02:14.000 Did I mention that that was my very first Triangle Alliance meeting ever? 00:02:14.000 --> 00:02:17.000 I wasn't even- it wasn't even called TA yet. 00:02:17.000 --> 00:02:22.000 It was actually still called 'After 9', after the 1992 Ballot Measure. 00:02:22.000 --> 00:02:27.000 But in January of 1994 I had been questioning my sexual orientation more seriously 00:02:27.000 --> 00:02:30.000 and went to a meeting with my friend Todd. 00:02:30.000 --> 00:02:34.000 I was afraid everyone would see me and assume that if you went into the Willamette Room 00:02:34.000 --> 00:02:39.000 which is now the 1st floor computer lab, that it was 'gay by association.' 00:02:39.000 --> 00:02:44.000 So in the middle of the game, do I cross the room? 00:02:44.000 --> 00:02:47.000 I do think that that one girl is cute. 00:02:47.000 --> 00:02:55.000 I decided to move. My heart was racing, my face was feeling warm. I felt all of the eyes on me and it completely exposed as I crossed the room 00:02:55.000 --> 00:02:63.000 in a hurry, hoping no one would notice. But not everyone had stood up [laugh] which meant that my movement signaled my non-hetero leading- 00:03:03.000 --> 00:03:08.000 leaning. I didn't want anyone looking at me. I was so self-conscious during the rest of the meeting. 00:03:08.000 --> 00:03:12.000 Had others noticed? What would that mean? 00:03:12.000 --> 00:03:16.000 I did think she was cute. Uh, I was so afraid. 00:03:16.000 --> 00:03:26.000 After the meeting folks went out together and I was asked, 'So' we saw you stand up and move during that question. Are you '?' 00:03:26.000 --> 00:03:28.000 God, it was too soon. I wasn't sure. 00:03:28.000 --> 00:03:32.000 Now was 9 months later as I'm telling Mark about 'Blinky.' 00:03:32.000 --> 00:03:33.000 [clears throat] 00:03:33.000 --> 00:03:39.000 How was this going to go? Mark was the ONE person I cared about the most in the world, 00:03:39.000 --> 00:03:43.000 and knowing we were at Catholic priest ground zero when I was telling him all this. 00:03:43.000 --> 00:03:44.000 [audience laughter] 00:03:44.000 --> 00:03:49.000 Would he tow the Catholic party line? I jetted from their belief system years earlier. 00:03:49.000 --> 00:03:56.000 Mark never ever preached to me, but, this was different and I had no idea how he would respond. 00:03:56.000 --> 00:03:63.000 When I was 15, my home life was so bad with a bipolar mom who was physically abusive and I approached Mark who listened and 00:04:03.000 --> 00:04:10.000 encouraged me to make a bold move to live with my dad and that forever and decidedly changed the course of my life. 00:04:10.000 --> 00:04:16.000 I didn't want to lose Mark, and if I came out to him, I wasn't sure what the outcome of that would be. 00:04:16.000 --> 00:04:22.000 I continued to tell him about "Blinky", that for the last several months I had crushed hard on this person 00:04:22.000 --> 00:04:30.000 and when I finished my story, I revealed, 'and'Blinky's name is' Melissa.' 00:04:30.000 --> 00:04:34.000 Based on my careful pronoun-free construction of the story, he knew. 00:04:34.000 --> 00:04:38.000 His immediate reply was, 'Oh that's great!' 00:04:38.000 --> 00:04:45.000 Turns out, Mark had long been an ally, that while he hadn't yet been in a Pride parade, he'd long had gay and lesbian friends. 00:04:45.000 --> 00:04:49.000 And of course, he was hanging around priests'and so obviously he had gaydar. 00:04:49.000 --> 00:04:56.000 [audience laughter] 00:04:56.000 --> 00:04:59.000 I'm going to now introduce our next monologist. 00:04:59.000 --> 00:04:65.000 This is 'Coming Out to King's Way' by Michael Albert read by Zachary Warner. 00:05:05.000 --> 00:05:26.000 [music] 00:05:26.000 --> 00:05:33.000 So the last place I expected to find myself was in the middle of an Evangelical Christian church in rural Ohio. 00:05:33.000 --> 00:05:36.000 After all, I'm Jewish. And Gay. 00:05:36.000 --> 00:05:40.000 And back then, I was an avowed agnostic, though I would later 'come out' as an atheist. 00:05:40.000 --> 00:05:46.000 But walking by 'King's Way' one day, I was struck by the sign ''" 'Deaf Ministry,' it said. 00:05:46.000 --> 00:05:52.000 I was intrigued. One Sunday, I threw on some nice clothes and ventured over to the church to see what there was to see. 00:05:52.000 --> 00:05:60.000 The 'Deaf Ministry' was comprised of one boy somewhere around 10 years old with a disability the nature of which never became known to 00:06:00.000 --> 00:06:05.000 me. I only knew he used a wheelchair. In front of him sat a woman desperately trying to keep up with the church proceedings. 00:06:05.000 --> 00:06:09.000 It was a struggle for her, and painful to watch. 00:06:09.000 --> 00:06:14.000 Though I had yet to see the inside of an ITP classroom, I was able to feed her some of the many signs she was missing. 00:06:14.000 --> 00:06:18.000 By the end of the service, I had replaced her in time to interpret the sermon. 00:06:18.000 --> 00:06:26.000 And that began my 9 months of service as a volunteer Sign Language interpreter for the King's Way Evangelical Christian Church. 00:06:26.000 --> 00:06:32.000 I wanted the practice. It was a short time later that I was 'outed' to the church as Jewish. 00:06:32.000 --> 00:06:34.000 [audience laughter] 00:06:34.000 --> 00:06:40.000 But I didn't know it yet. This was a church where they passed communion through the rows in a tray, 00:06:40.000 --> 00:06:43.000 followed by another tray of tiny little thimbles of wine. 00:06:43.000 --> 00:06:47.000 Obviously, I passed on consuming the cookies and juice. 00:06:47.000 --> 00:06:53.000 My 'client' asked me why. 'I'm Jewish,' I signed back. 'Jews don't take communion.' 00:06:53.000 --> 00:06:54.000 And that was all he needed to know. 00:06:54.000 --> 00:06:59.000 But his father, an elder on the leadership council of the church, saw the exchange. 00:06:59.000 --> 00:06:64.000 Apparently, he shared his knowledge with others. But I was oblivious. 00:07:04.000 --> 00:07:12.000 Then came the day. I made a speech to the Student Government Association, televised on the campus closed circuit TV system. 00:07:12.000 --> 00:07:15.000 It was in support of removing the military ROTC from our college. 00:07:15.000 --> 00:07:21.000 We had passed a non-discrimination policy for the Bowling Green State University that included sexual orientation. 00:07:21.000 --> 00:07:27.000 It was fair to wonder aloud if an institution which blatantly excluded gay men and lesbians operating on campus would be in 00:07:27.000 --> 00:07:31.000 conflict with that policy. Many eyes saw that speech that night. 00:07:31.000 --> 00:07:36.000 Some of those eyes attended King Way. One of them was a college mathematics professor, 00:07:36.000 --> 00:07:44.000 also an elder in the church. As openly gay as I was, it didn't occur to me that my sexual orientation would be a surprise to anyone. 00:07:44.000 --> 00:07:47.000 But a surprise it was. 00:07:47.000 --> 00:07:51.000 About that time, the church was preparing for their Christmas concert with some neighboring churches, 00:07:51.000 --> 00:07:54.000 and I was preparing to interpret that concert. 00:07:54.000 --> 00:07:58.000 And then the minister asked me to step into his office. 00:07:58.000 --> 00:07:63.000 He informed me that my services were no longer welcome at the church, though [laugh] he was magnanimous 00:08:03.000 --> 00:08:09.000 enough not to kick me out if I wanted to sit quietly in the pews and listen. 00:08:09.000 --> 00:08:14.000 He explained that, being in a 'leadership position,' which I guess meant sitting at the front and flapping my arms, 00:08:14.000 --> 00:08:22.000 would cause confusion for anyone coming to the church who knew about my 'lifestyle choice' and saw me leading the worship. 00:08:22.000 --> 00:08:30.000 Whatever would they think? My thoughts raced. I figured, wouldn't they just assume I was there interpreting for a Deaf child? 00:08:30.000 --> 00:08:33.000 I figured, in fact, they probably wouldn't think much of anything at all. 00:08:33.000 --> 00:08:36.000 I really didn't understand what he was talking about. 00:08:36.000 --> 00:08:41.000 And I couldn't really comprehend how I could be fired from something I was never hired for in the first place. 00:08:41.000 --> 00:08:42.000 [audience laughter] 00:08:42.000 --> 00:08:47.000 The pastor decided to hold a meeting between me and the church elders. But I didn't face the elders completely alone. 00:08:47.000 --> 00:08:50.000 I had an ally. I had asked Todd to come with me. 00:08:50.000 --> 00:08:55.000 Todd, you see, was the head honcho for the BGSU Campus Crusade for Christ. 00:08:55.000 --> 00:08:58.000 He was an odd bedfellow, to be sure. 00:08:58.000 --> 00:08:64.000 I befriended him when his organization signed on to a petition in support of sexual orientation being added to the University's 00:09:04.000 --> 00:09:09.000 non-discrimination policies. He explained to a surprised Lesbian and Gay Alliance that, 00:09:09.000 --> 00:09:16.000 as Christians, they supported equality, even if they didn't support 'the homosexual lifestyle.' 00:09:16.000 --> 00:09:18.000 Eh, we could live with that. 00:09:18.000 --> 00:09:19.000 [audience laughter] 00:09:19.000 --> 00:09:24.000 And we did even do a couple of joint programs with them on the topic of spirituality and sexuality. 00:09:24.000 --> 00:09:29.000 And Todd agreed to come with me to the meeting to help me navigate the righteous justice of King's Way. 00:09:29.000 --> 00:09:35.000 I thought he could help. After all, he spoke fluent Christian [laugh]. [audience laughter] 00:09:35.000 --> 00:09:37.000 Maybe he could make them understand. 00:09:37.000 --> 00:09:39.000 They didn't. 00:09:39.000 --> 00:09:42.000 One of the elders, I recall, refused to even look at me. 00:09:42.000 --> 00:09:51.000 The young boy's dad was there. I asked him how a father could let his son miss out on communication on the basis of a prejudice. 00:09:51.000 --> 00:09:57.000 There was no reply, though I had the sense that church harmony was winning out over linguistic access. 00:09:57.000 --> 00:09:62.000 I asked the church how they could let me stay in my 'leadership position" for nine months when they knew I was Jewish, 00:10:02.000 --> 00:10:06.000 but then allow my being gay to be the last straw? 00:10:06.000 --> 00:10:11.000 'We thought that, by hearing the gospel, you would come to know the love of Christ,' was the answer. 00:10:11.000 --> 00:10:16.000 Apparently being gay meant that, made that hope now futile. 00:10:16.000 --> 00:10:21.000 I left the room. Todd remained to meet them, with them privately. 00:10:21.000 --> 00:10:27.000 After about a half hour, he came out, and quietly but firmly suggested I let this one go. 00:10:27.000 --> 00:10:35.000 I still love interpreting in religious settings. I find that most people of faith are sincere and open, and loving and accepting. 00:10:35.000 --> 00:10:38.000 Religious themes are amazing in Sign Language. 00:10:38.000 --> 00:10:42.000 The ceremonies are beautiful. The environment is usually joyful and reverent. 00:10:42.000 --> 00:10:48.000 The music is, is pretty. The congregation is there to share a wonderful communal experience. 00:10:48.000 --> 00:10:52.000 But King's Way did teach me one lesson. 00:10:52.000 --> 00:10:57.000 I will never again make a contract to interpret for a church without letting them know, in advance, 00:10:57.000 --> 00:10:66.000 that I am gay and Jewish and an atheist. If it's going to be an issue, it will be an issue up front, or it will never be brought up again. 00:11:06.000 --> 00:11:12.000 That's an indignity I will not repeat. 00:11:12.000 --> 00:11:13.000 [audience applause] 00:11:13.000 --> 00:11:34.000 [music] 00:11:34.000 --> 00:11:47.000 Fifty years ago, during the start of my high school years, I will admit that I had very little to no idea what the LGBTQ community was. 00:11:47.000 --> 00:11:55.000 At that time, I suspected that it was generally not something that was openly discussed because of a frequent societal stigma 00:11:55.000 --> 00:11:62.000 associated with the topic. I think the closest I got to broaching the topic was when someone called 00:12:02.000 --> 00:12:10.000 another person a 'fag' in derogatory jest and I remember being clueless. 00:12:10.000 --> 00:12:15.000 Was it a British cigarette I wondered? [audience laughter] 00:12:15.000 --> 00:12:20.000 I was raised in a strict religious home. Now you know which religion. [audience laughter] 00:12:20.000 --> 00:12:28.000 Matters sexual, conventual- conventional or not, were simply not discussed ''" ever! 00:12:28.000 --> 00:12:33.000 When I went to college, my education expanded beyond the classroom. 00:12:33.000 --> 00:12:39.000 As a freshman, I remember being approached by two young men on separate occasions. 00:12:39.000 --> 00:12:44.000 Frankly, I think I understood what they wanted and it scared me. 00:12:44.000 --> 00:12:48.000 In my second year, I joined a fraternity house. 00:12:48.000 --> 00:12:57.000 The cook, who had been with the house for decades, was named Desmond and cared proudly and deeply for the fraternity brothers. 00:12:57.000 --> 00:12:72.000 He was an elderly, married, black, bisexual as he explained, and he DID need to explain what at least a part of that meant. [audience laughter] 00:13:12.000 --> 00:13:20.000 He became a friend and we sometimes drank milk and scotch back in the kitchen. [audience laughter] 00:13:20.000 --> 00:13:24.000 I also befriended his close friend, Carl. 00:13:24.000 --> 00:13:35.000 Carl was a delightful and honest and respectable individual who liked a good, uh, time of any kind ''" this was 1969. 00:13:35.000 --> 00:13:41.000 Carl, a few years younger than Desmond was a forklift operator. 00:13:41.000 --> 00:13:49.000 He dressed flamboyantly and left no doubt that he was clearly happy and proud to be gay. 00:13:49.000 --> 00:13:57.000 Over the next few years I learned much about perspectives I never even knew existed. [baby in audience crying] 00:13:57.000 --> 00:13:69.000 When I started dating my now wife, Meg, [audience laughter] Carl [audience laughter] Carl invited Meg and I, uh, to his house 00:14:09.000 --> 00:14:16.000 for an afternoon party or a party that began in the afternoon in Sayreville, New Jersey. [audience laughter] 00:14:16.000 --> 00:14:27.000 But it lasted long into the night. We attended and met gay men and women, bisexuals, crossdressers, 00:14:27.000 --> 00:14:37.000 and I wonder if we were the only straight- so-called straight guests there. It hardly mattered and a good time was had by all. 00:14:37.000 --> 00:14:45.000 While I believe I never really had- eh, while I believe I never had any real prejudices 00:14:45.000 --> 00:14:56.000 toward the LGBTQ community, these few years helped me to appreciate the diversity of individuals that were different than me. 00:14:56.000 --> 00:14:67.000 Fast forward fifty years. I work in a community where I can make an impact by reaffirming the rights of us all. 00:15:07.000 --> 00:15:15.000 On a personnel level, I hope I've been able to provide some support to a few young people 00:15:15.000 --> 00:15:22.000 here tonight whose parents have had challenges accepting who they are. 00:15:22.000 --> 00:15:25.000 Thank you for this opportunity to tell my short story. 00:15:25.000 --> 00:15:28.000 [audience applause] 00:15:28.000 --> 00:15:47.000 [music] 00:15:47.000 --> 00:15:49.000 Let's talk about sex. 00:15:49.000 --> 00:15:53.000 [audience laughter, yelling, clapping] 00:15:53.000 --> 00:15:56.000 Or the lack of an interest in it for me. 00:15:56.000 --> 00:15:61.000 I identify as asexual, and yes, it is a real orientation. [laughs] 00:16:01.000 --> 00:16:10.000 What it basically means is that I don't experience sexual attraction. I've had people ask me what it's like, after expressing their sympathies of 00:16:10.000 --> 00:16:18.000 course. I'm not joking. I've actually had someone say that they felt bad for me because I'm asexual. It happened to me my first year here. 00:16:18.000 --> 00:16:25.000 Somehow, my hall mates found out that I was ace, a shorthand way to say asexual, and were asking me questions about it. 00:16:25.000 --> 00:16:33.000 I don't remember what lead up to this happening, but I ended up hearing one of my favorite responses on asexuality. 00:16:33.000 --> 00:16:39.000 After saying that I wasn't interested in sex, this one girl turns to me and says 'I feel really bad for you now.' 00:16:39.000 --> 00:16:46.000 I just want to say to that person, 'Thank you. You just improved my life by reminding me of how much I don't fit in sometimes.' 00:16:46.000 --> 00:16:51.000 I think I realized that I felt this way around the age of 13. Something like that. 00:16:51.000 --> 00:16:55.000 The girls in my class were talking about what boys they liked and how cute so and so was. 00:16:55.000 --> 00:16:59.000 I, on the other hand, was concerned with more important matters. 00:16:59.000 --> 00:16:66.000 Like keeping up with some TV show or finally understandling- understanding algebra. Which never happened [laughs]. [audience laughter] 00:17:06.000 --> 00:17:13.000 Anyway, romance was not the top priority. Still, I knew that I was, it was actually a bit unusual to feel this way. 00:17:13.000 --> 00:17:20.000 So I think I typed into Google 'not attracted to anyone'. And the result that caught my eye was a word, 'asexual.' 00:17:20.000 --> 00:17:30.000 It made me so happy to finally find a term to describe me and to know that I was not the only one in the world to feel this way. 00:17:30.000 --> 00:17:38.000 However, the elation was fleeting. Different worries started filling me head. Am I going to be alone forever? Am I freak for feeling like this? 00:17:38.000 --> 00:17:43.000 All these questions, plus the extra hormones due to puberty, caused me to have a small breakdown. 00:17:43.000 --> 00:17:47.000 My friend and my mother, in an attempt to comfort me, asked what me was going on. 00:17:47.000 --> 00:17:51.000 In between my sobs, I was able to say the words 'I think I'm asexual.' 00:17:51.000 --> 00:17:56.000 Instead of being met with acceptance, my answer received laughter instead. 00:17:56.000 --> 00:17:58.000 This was the complete opposite of what I needed. 00:17:58.000 --> 00:17:65.000 Instead of being given a hug or comforting words, I was laughed at. I had completely exposed myself to their judgement, 00:18:05.000 --> 00:18:07.000 and that is what I got. 00:18:07.000 --> 00:18:13.000 I was told that, 'Asexuality was not an orientation and that it means you reproduce, reproduce with yourself,' 00:18:13.000 --> 00:18:19.000 and 'That's for sponges, Sam.' [audience laughter] Apparently, I'm a sponge that's evolved quite a bit. [audience laughter] 00:18:19.000 --> 00:18:25.000 After this experience, I decided that I was wrong about myself and that it was best just to ignore what I've been feeling. 00:18:25.000 --> 00:18:32.000 Just carry on and believe that I was going to be normal someday, that something would just 'click' and that everything would be alright. 00:18:32.000 --> 00:18:37.000 I went through high school keeping quiet, hoping that everyone would just leave me alone. 00:18:37.000 --> 00:18:42.000 The only time that I ever heard anyone say the word 'asexual' was when my religion teacher Mrs. Parosa, 00:18:42.000 --> 00:18:49.000 who actually was an English teacher as the old religion teacher had been previously fired for reasons I don't want to go into, 00:18:49.000 --> 00:18:53.000 [audience laughter] talked about how she actually knew people who identified this way. 00:18:53.000 --> 00:18:58.000 That was almost like my wake-up call to show that this identity was present in the real world. 00:18:58.000 --> 00:18:62.000 Someone else besides some random stranger on the internet was talking about this. 00:19:02.000 --> 00:19:05.000 I almost wanted to write a note thanking her for her talk. 00:19:05.000 --> 00:19:10.000 But, that would involve outing myself, and I was not ready to do that at all. 00:19:10.000 --> 00:19:16.000 I think an aspect that re- that plays into this reluctance is the fact I went to a small, private Catholic school. 00:19:16.000 --> 00:19:23.000 We didn't have anything like a GSA, so there were no resources for anyone who identified as anything except straight and cis. 00:19:23.000 --> 00:19:29.000 Needless to say, I stayed pretty quiet. Speaking of Catholic school, allow me to go on a tirade on what it was like to be 00:19:29.000 --> 00:19:34.000 raised Catholic and come to realize that you're not straight [laughs]. [audience laughter] 00:19:34.000 --> 00:19:36.000 You would think that I would be like the perfect Catholic, right [laughs]? 00:19:36.000 --> 00:19:39.000 The celibacy of religious life would be a breeze! 00:19:39.000 --> 00:19:48.000 [audience laughter and clapping] 00:19:48.000 --> 00:19:55.000 However, that is not necessarily the case, as I experienced in Theology of the Body, my own personal hell. 00:19:55.000 --> 00:19:61.000 Trust me, Catholic Hell's only competitor in being horrible and pain-filled is the experience of being queer and in that class. 00:20:01.000 --> 00:20:03.000 [audience laughter] 00:20:03.000 --> 00:20:08.000 Basically, they were saying that sex is a beautiful thing, as long as it was between a man and a woman and within the confines of 00:20:08.000 --> 00:20:15.000 marriage. There are so many things I kinda disagree with that statement, but one aspect I want to know is what they thought 00:20:15.000 --> 00:20:20.000 about asexuals? Are they making the angles cry by not copulating [laughs]? [audience laughter] 00:20:20.000 --> 00:20:25.000 Is this experience so mind-blowing that they are unfortunate to miss it? 00:20:25.000 --> 00:20:32.000 Like one thing I saw that made me laugh was one Christian magazine that said asexuals can't exist because God made sexuality, 00:20:32.000 --> 00:20:37.000 so those who claim to be asexual are repressing something that God gave them. 00:20:37.000 --> 00:20:40.000 But how can I reject something I was never given? 00:20:40.000 --> 00:20:50.000 Basically, what I've learned over the years is that either nobody cares or they just don't believe in asexuals. 00:20:50.000 --> 00:20:52.000 Some people claim that aces don't belong in the queer movement. 00:20:52.000 --> 00:20:59.000 For example, to some, heteroromantic aces, which are asexuals who experience heteroromantic attraction, are basically straight. 00:20:59.000 --> 00:20:65.000 Others claim that aces are not oppressed at all, so they should stop their complaining. 00:21:05.000 --> 00:21:10.000 I actually find that a bit ironic, as those people are becoming kind of oppressors themselves. 00:21:10.000 --> 00:21:16.000 Whatever I guess' There are still arguments over what the 'A' stands for in LGBTQIA. 00:21:16.000 --> 00:21:22.000 Most of the time it stands for Allies. So I like to think it stands for Asexuals. Or both, you know? Both is good! 00:21:22.000 --> 00:21:28.000 Some people say being ace must be great, thinking it would solve all their relationship problems. 00:21:28.000 --> 00:21:34.000 This, being kinda offensive, is a major misunderstanding as asexuality has its own set of problems. 00:21:34.000 --> 00:21:39.000 Instead of improving relationships, being ace more likely hurts my chances of having one. 00:21:39.000 --> 00:21:44.000 Another reason it actually kinda sucks is that there is no community I can be part of. 00:21:44.000 --> 00:21:50.000 It, the asexual community mainly exists online, so that human element is gone. 00:21:50.000 --> 00:21:55.000 There's nobody on campus who I can really talk to who is experiencing the exact same feelings as I am. [clears throat] 00:21:55.000 --> 00:21:61.000 Also, because the movement is so young, there is no asexual culture. There are no icons for me to look up to. 00:22:01.000 --> 00:22:06.000 You know there are great queer icons like Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, and Laverne Cox. 00:22:06.000 --> 00:22:08.000 You know what the aces have? 00:22:08.000 --> 00:22:10.000 Spongebob Squarepants. 00:22:10.000 --> 00:22:12.000 [audience laughter] 00:22:12.000 --> 00:22:13.000 I'm not joking. He is apparently asexual. 00:22:13.000 --> 00:22:19.000 Yes, my one role model is apparently a talking sea sponge who everyone thinks is annoying. 00:22:19.000 --> 00:22:23.000 Not really a confidence booster, is it? 00:22:23.000 --> 00:22:27.000 Some people say their queer identity is one of the great- greater blessings in their life. 00:22:27.000 --> 00:22:30.000 For me, it actually kinda feels more like a curse. 00:22:30.000 --> 00:22:37.000 It makes me not really fit in with either straight or queer society, I constantly have to check to see if the queer community is going to accept me. 00:22:37.000 --> 00:22:44.000 I'm missing out on an experience that society says is amazing and is what makes you human, and it severely limits my dating pool. 00:22:44.000 --> 00:22:49.000 I guess the A doesn't stand for either Asexual or Ally. It stands for 'Alone.' 00:22:49.000 --> 00:22:50.000 [audience applause] 00:22:50.000 --> 00:22:63.000 [music] 00:23:03.000 --> 00:23:05.000 I've spent my whole life waiting for you, 00:23:05.000 --> 00:23:07.000 fearful of you, 00:23:07.000 --> 00:23:09.000 scared you're going to come after me. 00:23:09.000 --> 00:23:13.000 Been scared since I was sixteen, seventeen''"something like that. 00:23:13.000 --> 00:23:17.000 Wasn't sure if you'd be alone, but scared there'd be five or eight of you, 00:23:17.000 --> 00:23:21.000 like that time in the park when your lot chased Melea and me for a couple blocks. 00:23:21.000 --> 00:23:24.000 Throwing bottles at us while we were dosed. 00:23:24.000 --> 00:23:26.000 Not cool. 00:23:26.000 --> 00:23:28.000 I've prepared for you. 00:23:28.000 --> 00:23:32.000 I've got so many ways of burying you, you don't know. 00:23:32.000 --> 00:23:35.000 Cause you never bothered to stay for long. 00:23:35.000 --> 00:23:42.000 I'm glad you never stayed cause, I never actually had to taste my own blood. Or yours. 00:23:42.000 --> 00:23:46.000 If you do show, here's how I will bury you. 00:23:46.000 --> 00:23:49.000 I'm gonna tell you some of the ways I'm gonna bury you. 00:23:49.000 --> 00:23:52.000 I'm gonna bury you. 00:23:52.000 --> 00:23:55.000 Since I was young, I've seen you war on my people. 00:23:55.000 --> 00:23:56.000 Gay people. 00:23:56.000 --> 00:23:58.000 What we do, be too smart for you? 00:23:58.000 --> 00:23:62.000 Have too much fun? Smile too much? [audience laughter] 00:24:02.000 --> 00:24:04.000 That's it, I think. Jealous cause we're gay. 00:24:04.000 --> 00:24:10.000 Gay's much better than being scared''"tell you that from experience. 00:24:10.000 --> 00:24:13.000 First way I bury you, I overwhelm you. 00:24:13.000 --> 00:24:16.000 Pulled this off when I was 21. It was easy. 00:24:16.000 --> 00:24:21.000 Do lots of acid, drop out of school, and tell my parents I'm bi. 00:24:21.000 --> 00:24:26.000 Sure, you sent some skinheads round my way, but they didn't touch me, now did they? 00:24:26.000 --> 00:24:28.000 No, they didn't. 00:24:28.000 --> 00:24:33.000 My hyperbole won: overwhelming force. It was a trifecta. 00:24:33.000 --> 00:24:41.000 Force was so overwhelming that my parents didn't even meet my man til we'd been together for ten years. 00:24:41.000 --> 00:24:45.000 Truth. Like Gulf War 1. 00:24:45.000 --> 00:24:47.000 When I found D, I was in heaven. 00:24:47.000 --> 00:24:51.000 I had my own Mack Bolan. 00:24:51.000 --> 00:24:56.000 That man's Alpha Butch, [audience laughter] and I'm his. 00:24:56.000 --> 00:24:62.000 No one touches me. He's a silverback. Silverbacks dominate. 00:25:02.000 --> 00:25:08.000 Any veteran will tell you: you don't mess with aging vets. 00:25:08.000 --> 00:25:12.000 Leave them alone. They do not play fair. 00:25:12.000 --> 00:25:17.000 So, I've had my own personal bodyguard for over two decades. 00:25:17.000 --> 00:25:20.000 He's more wily than ever. 00:25:20.000 --> 00:25:27.000 You've had no chance to hurt me since then, except maybe when I lived in Lubbock''"fuck Texas!''"for eight months. 00:25:27.000 --> 00:25:32.000 [audience laughter and applause] 00:25:32.000 --> 00:25:40.000 Who's gonna touch me when my man's a combat vet who worked with military intelligence and special ops in Viet Nam? 00:25:40.000 --> 00:25:42.000 Harm me and you're buried. 00:25:42.000 --> 00:25:48.000 Now? Now I don't really know what to do with you. Seriously. 00:25:48.000 --> 00:25:56.000 Past fifteen years, you've been easy. Kept on hoping, in a way, that you'd show up so that I could rhetorically moonstomp you, 00:25:56.000 --> 00:25:59.000 just like Nazi skins do fags. 00:25:59.000 --> 00:25:63.000 We've had skirmishes, but I shut you down. 00:26:03.000 --> 00:26:05.000 Every time. 00:26:05.000 --> 00:26:09.000 D and my tenth anniversary shut you down. 00:26:09.000 --> 00:26:19.000 You're like, 'Wow, gay people? Relationship? Ten years? Most straights can't touch this.' [audience laughter] 00:26:19.000 --> 00:26:27.000 Now its 22 years, but the response is the same. Few people get it; I know you don't. 00:26:27.000 --> 00:26:30.000 LBTQ, straight, whatever. 00:26:30.000 --> 00:26:34.000 Keeper love, that's what we have. We're keepers. 00:26:34.000 --> 00:26:39.000 Over two decades, working on our third. What you got? 00:26:39.000 --> 00:26:49.000 But now? Now what do I do? I spent the past 25 years making ready for your war. 00:26:49.000 --> 00:26:57.000 My fear of you defined who and what I am. So, thanks. I guess. 00:26:57.000 --> 00:26:64.000 I was so scared of you beating me down, of killing me like in Torchsong, of raping and humiliating me, 00:27:04.000 --> 00:27:08.000 that I've built the safest, most loving environment possible. 00:27:08.000 --> 00:27:11.000 But I'm done with this shit-fear of you. 00:27:11.000 --> 00:27:12.000 I am the victor. 00:27:12.000 --> 00:27:15.000 You're buried. 00:27:15.000 --> 00:27:28.000 [music] 00:27:28.000 --> 00:27:35.000 I'm now 37, I came out when I was 16. 00:27:35.000 --> 00:27:42.000 I came out to my mother and her family. [Laughter] Thanks. 00:27:42.000 --> 00:27:48.000 I came out to my mother and my mother's side of the family and my parents, my immediate family and everything was fine. 00:27:48.000 --> 00:27:57.000 No problems ensued. Friends, that I'd heard their situations, where there was a lot of difficulty upon coming out. 00:27:57.000 --> 00:27:61.000 But for me, I was fortunate. 00:28:01.000 --> 00:28:08.000 Many years later I met my partner who I'm with now, Heather. At that time we'd been together for a few years. 00:28:08.000 --> 00:28:15.000 And my father, now he's Greek and he has very strong Greek roots. 00:28:15.000 --> 00:28:20.000 He always told me about the Greek culture and how proud he was to be a part of that. 00:28:20.000 --> 00:28:29.000 And I felt like I identified strongly with being Greek but I hadn't really connected with my Greek roots. A part of me felt missing. 00:28:29.000 --> 00:28:35.000 I realized that it was time, it was overdue, I needed to get in touch with my Greek family who lived in Chicago. 00:28:35.000 --> 00:28:37.000 My father's sister, my aunt. 00:28:37.000 --> 00:28:40.000 At that point I'd been with Heather for a few years. 00:28:40.000 --> 00:28:46.000 And I reached out to my aunt and she said 'Sure, by all means, pay us a visit.' 00:28:46.000 --> 00:28:55.000 Now keep in mind I hadn't come out to my father's side of the family. I wasn't particularly close to them growing up. 00:28:55.000 --> 00:28:61.000 I'd visit them on occasion but we weren't particularly close. 00:29:01.000 --> 00:29:07.000 So the day came when we visited Chicago and visited my aunt's home. She was thrilled to have us. 00:29:07.000 --> 00:29:14.000 She called all of the relatives and extended family, my cousins, my great aunt who was 94 at the time. 00:29:14.000 --> 00:29:18.000 Everyone came to my aunt's house. We shared a meal. We caught up with one another. 00:29:18.000 --> 00:29:24.000 People who I hadn't seen since I was a very very small child. 00:29:24.000 --> 00:29:30.000 I was introducing Heather and when I introduced her, I introduced her as "Heather." Just to play it safe. 00:29:30.000 --> 00:29:32.000 I didn't know how accepting they were. 00:29:32.000 --> 00:29:38.000 So I didn't come out necessarily to them right away. I, we had dinner and they, many of the family members spoke Greek only and 00:29:38.000 --> 00:29:44.000 very little English so I have an aunt who was interpreting from Greek to English. 00:29:44.000 --> 00:29:49.000 And then Heather, my partner, was interpreting for me, English to American Sign Language. 00:29:49.000 --> 00:29:57.000 So we had quite the interpreting circuit going there. It was a little hellish but we managed. [audience laughter] 00:29:57.000 --> 00:29:65.000 And I believed it started with my great aunt but the main topic of conversation turned to whether or not I had a boyfriend. 00:30:05.000 --> 00:30:08.000 I said "No I don't have a boyfriend actually". 00:30:08.000 --> 00:30:13.000 Heather was interpreting this mind you. [audience laughter] 00:30:13.000 --> 00:30:19.000 I said, "No I don't have a boyfriend." Well matchmaker began. 00:30:19.000 --> 00:30:23.000 "Well dear are you interested in Greek men?" "Who do we know? Who do we know that we can set you up with?" 00:30:23.000 --> 00:30:28.000 I.... they... the ladies particularly took off. "Who, now, who do we know?" 00:30:28.000 --> 00:30:32.000 "What available men are there that we know that we can set you up with?" "Well he's a 00:30:32.000 --> 00:30:35.000 little too old, he's a little too young.' [audience laughter] 00:30:35.000 --> 00:30:40.000 Meanwhile I'm making eye contact with Heather and thinking, 'I'm so sorry you are having to interpret this!' [audience laughter] 00:30:40.000 --> 00:30:49.000 At the end of the evening we made our ways upstairs after saying our goodbyes. We stayed at our aunt's house in the guest bedroom. 00:30:49.000 --> 00:30:55.000 My aunt's house. And there were two twin beds that were in a V shape that were touching at the feet. [audience laughter] 00:30:55.000 --> 00:30:61.000 And we told my aunt good night. We closed the door behind us and we just hugged. 00:31:01.000 --> 00:31:08.000 And I said, "I'm so so sorry. I'm so sorry that I put you through his. That is so awkward." She said, 'It's okay." 00:31:08.000 --> 00:31:12.000 We just hugged and then we got into our respective beds and held hands [audience laughter] 00:31:12.000 --> 00:31:19.000 across the gulf between the two of them. We couldn't even sleep together but we managed, we got through the night and um, 00:31:19.000 --> 00:31:22.000 greeted the next morning and then left. 00:31:22.000 --> 00:31:25.000 A few years later fast forward to last summer. 00:31:25.000 --> 00:31:30.000 Well, and just to say, my aunt, I know, suspected. 00:31:30.000 --> 00:31:37.000 Um, you know, Heather and other family members, as we communicated, started to give them hints. So they then knew about us. 00:31:37.000 --> 00:31:43.000 But last summer we reached out again and we were going to be in the area and asked if we could come and pay them a visit again. 00:31:43.000 --> 00:31:46.000 My aunt was very enthusiastic she said, "Yes! fantastic!" 00:31:46.000 --> 00:31:52.000 We pulled up and we had our two children in tow who my aunt had not met. 00:31:52.000 --> 00:31:56.000 We showed up at the door and she said, 'Hi! And who are these children??? 00:31:56.000 --> 00:31:59.000 And we said, 'Well these are OUR children!' [audience laughter] 00:31:59.000 --> 00:31:72.000 [Music.] 00:32:12.000 --> 00:32:20.000 I'm not even 30 years old, and yet I've 'come out' so many times, I wonder if there are any doors left to open in my life. 00:32:20.000 --> 00:32:26.000 Of course I know there are more; there are more ways I will grow and understand my intersecting identities, 00:32:26.000 --> 00:32:33.000 more barriers within myself that need to be broken down, and still more pieces of myself that I have left to share. 00:32:33.000 --> 00:32:44.000 I first came out as a bisexual woman, then as a lesbian, and now, finally, I am out as queer - and that's only about my sexual orientation [laughs]. 00:32:44.000 --> 00:32:54.000 I came out as a gender nonconforming butch, then genderqueer, and now I am out as a proud transguy. 00:32:54.000 --> 00:32:61.000 Interjected throughout my gender and sexual orientation journey have been other 'outings' ''" converting and coming out as Jewish, 00:33:01.000 --> 00:33:06.000 gaining comfort and appreciation for my introvert tendencies, coming out as a lawyer 00:33:06.000 --> 00:33:13.000 (which doesn't always generate the best reaction), [audience laughter] and so much more. 00:33:13.000 --> 00:33:18.000 Each piece of my identity, both past and present, is an important part- piece of me. 00:33:18.000 --> 00:33:26.000 Just because I sought to medically transition, for example, doesn't invalidate the piece of me that is still very tied to my genderqueer 00:33:26.000 --> 00:33:31.000 and gender nonconforming identities. Those are layers of my gender identity, 00:33:31.000 --> 00:33:40.000 and although you may not always see those pieces, they are still there, like a gem hidden in the earth: treasured and beautiful. 00:33:40.000 --> 00:33:44.000 So I guess I want to come out today as layered. 00:33:44.000 --> 00:33:53.000 I am a queer, Jewish, transguy, and introvert. I have bat- battled anxiety and depression. 00:33:53.000 --> 00:33:63.000 I have overcome challenges with family, health, and identity. I am happily married to the woman I started dating when I was 18 years old. 00:34:03.000 --> 00:34:11.000 I am an activist, a progressive, a geek, a lawyer, and a skeptic. 00:34:11.000 --> 00:34:16.000 I am a suicide survivor. I am a lover and a fighter. 00:34:16.000 --> 00:34:18.000 And I am still learning. 00:34:18.000 --> 00:34:31.000 [music] 00:34:31.000 --> 00:34:38.000 The nightmare is always the same. I open my eyes to find that I've been engulfed in a wooden shipping container, 00:34:38.000 --> 00:34:43.000 just big enough to hold the bed that my husband and I share with our 3 small children. 00:34:43.000 --> 00:34:47.000 Claustrophobic and terrified, I spring to my knees and pound on the wall with my open palms. 00:34:47.000 --> 00:34:50.000 'It's WOOD!!' that I wail''IT'S FUCKING WOOD!!'. 00:34:50.000 --> 00:34:57.000 Striking the wall again and again until my hands burn and throb, I lie back down and moan, 'My hands hurt so bad! 00:34:57.000 --> 00:34:65.000 Why do my hands hurt so bad?' My husband consoles me as he explains, 'It's another night terror, Breana. You're ok. You're safe.' 00:35:05.000 --> 00:35:07.000 I feel anything but. 00:35:07.000 --> 00:35:14.000 At 28, an unbroken chain of boyfriends culminated in a marriage to, inarguably, the best one of them all. 00:35:14.000 --> 00:35:21.000 At which time I quit my fulltime interpreting job and had 2 babies in one year. I thought I had finally gotten the life of my dreams. 00:35:21.000 --> 00:35:24.000 But then, 4 years later, the nightmares started. 00:35:24.000 --> 00:35:30.000 Looking back now, it's almost comical to me that the imagery could be so symbolically clich'', 00:35:30.000 --> 00:35:33.000 but, welll, there I was, trapped in a box, struggling to beat my way out. 00:35:33.000 --> 00:35:36.000 That's when I met Lola. 00:35:36.000 --> 00:35:43.000 I probably should tell you that, from the time I discovered myself as a sexual being, I harbored secret fantasies about my girl friends. 00:35:43.000 --> 00:35:48.000 In college I agonized endlessly over whether or not I was gay, but no matter how angst ridden I was, 00:35:48.000 --> 00:35:55.000 I could never quite figure out how to cross the threshold into actually dating any of the girls I crushed on. 00:35:55.000 --> 00:35:59.000 I grilled my fril- friends who were lucky enough to have made the mysterious leap successfully. 00:35:59.000 --> 00:35:62.000 'How do you do it? How do you flirt with girls?' 00:36:02.000 --> 00:36:05.000 'Just like you would flirt with anyone else!' 00:36:05.000 --> 00:36:15.000 And so 10, finally, 10 years later at 32, I found myself falling: helplessly, madly, head-over-heels in love. With a woman. 00:36:15.000 --> 00:36:18.000 This is the part of the story that you might think is the 'conflict'. 00:36:18.000 --> 00:36:22.000 I'm sitting here, nursing my two toddlers, married to a man, in love with a woman. 00:36:22.000 --> 00:36:28.000 But you see, my husband and I had an open marriage. We believed in nonmonogamy and specifically polyamory. 00:36:28.000 --> 00:36:35.000 Falling in love with another person, in and of itself, was not a deal breaker. The deal breaker was how I fell. 00:36:35.000 --> 00:36:39.000 It was as if the walls of that box that contained my marriage suddenly fell away. 00:36:39.000 --> 00:36:46.000 All of the rules about who I, as a woman, should be in relationship to a man, no longer applied with Lola. 00:36:46.000 --> 00:36:51.000 And I was suddenly free to just be me. My complete organic whole self. 00:36:51.000 --> 00:36:56.000 Showing up in a relationship with another complete organic whole human being. 00:36:56.000 --> 00:36:62.000 It wasn't that I no longer loved my husband, it was that I did not know how to show up with him in this way. 00:37:02.000 --> 00:37:09.000 Didn't know how to undo the script that seemed to be coded into my DNA for the way a woman should be with a man. 00:37:09.000 --> 00:37:14.000 As I uncovered these truths about myself I started to feel a pull to make the changes visible. 00:37:14.000 --> 00:37:21.000 But after years of carefully constructing my image to exlude anything that might be perceived as undesirable, coming out, 00:37:21.000 --> 00:37:30.000 allowing myself to be seen so fully seemed impossible. Until the day when it was more painful to hide than it was to risk being seen. 00:37:30.000 --> 00:37:34.000 I was spending time with my parents at their house in Portland on a warm spring day, 00:37:34.000 --> 00:37:40.000 wearing a sweater to hide the bruises covering my arms from my newfound love affair not only with Lola, 00:37:40.000 --> 00:37:43.000 but with rough sex. [audience laughter] 00:37:43.000 --> 00:37:49.000 After sharing a meal, my parents retired to the living room and I removed my long sleeves to wash the dishes. 00:37:49.000 --> 00:37:56.000 A few minutes later, my dad called me into the living room, and without a thought I grabbed a towel to dry my hands and headed toward him. 00:37:56.000 --> 00:37:62.000 I wasn't halfway across the living room when he noticed, and immediately demanded, 'Where did you get those bruises?!" 00:38:02.000 --> 00:38:04.000 "Did Rich do that to you?!' 00:38:04.000 --> 00:38:08.000 Now if you know my husband, you know he would not hurt a fly. 00:38:08.000 --> 00:38:11.000 He is a gentle, peaceful, Libra of a man. 00:38:11.000 --> 00:38:17.000 Through my head flashed the alternate universe where I let my dad believe that my husband gave me these fingertip and fist sized bruises 00:38:17.000 --> 00:38:24.000 that lined my arms. I would never be able to live with myself. In an instant I committed. 00:38:24.000 --> 00:38:28.000 I crossed the second half of the distance toward him and sat beside him on the couch. 00:38:28.000 --> 00:38:37.000 Looking squarely in his eyes, I told him the unapologetic, honest truth: 'Dad, my girlfriend made these bruises. And it was consensual.' 00:38:37.000 --> 00:38:45.000 I shut my mouth and let it sink in, as he stared straight ahead, through his big screen tv and a million miles beyond. 00:38:45.000 --> 00:38:51.000 I never intended to come out to my parents as gay AND kinky all in the same breath [audience laughter] 00:38:51.000 --> 00:38:56.000 but there I was, doing it. My mom wrung her hands. She worried. 00:38:56.000 --> 00:38:60.000 The daughter she thought was finally safe and settled down had just broken free of the corral. 00:39:00.000 --> 00:39:03.000 Security is so precarious. 00:39:03.000 --> 00:39:06.000 'But HOW can you hurt someone you LOVE?' she begged of the marks. 00:39:06.000 --> 00:39:14.000 My dad, still staring straight ahead, scoffed, 'I watch Real Sex...I know about that stuff.' [audience laughter] 00:39:14.000 --> 00:39:21.000 He turned to me, he turned to me and with as much honesty and self-awareness as I had ever seen him possess he said, 00:39:21.000 --> 00:39:29.000 'I need time. I don't want to meet your girlfriend right now. I don't want to talk about it for a while. But I will come around. I just need time.' 00:39:29.000 --> 00:39:32.000 And that was that. It was done. 00:39:32.000 --> 00:39:38.000 As I pulled away from their house, I felt a burden lift that I hadn't realized I was carrying. I felt light. I felt FREE! 00:39:38.000 --> 00:39:45.000 It was no longer my secret to keep. It was in their hands. Whatever their reaction, it was theirs no longer mine. 00:39:45.000 --> 00:39:52.000 In that instant I realized the beauty and freedom of living life by following my own heart and letting others have their experience. 00:39:52.000 --> 00:39:54.000 That is heaven. 00:39:54.000 --> 00:39:58.000 Then in mid-November, 6 months later, I got a call. It was my dad. 00:39:58.000 --> 00:39:62.000 My dad never, ever, maybe not once in my entire life, called me. 00:40:02.000 --> 00:40:06.000 Keeping in touch was my Mom's job. So, cell phone ringing, I click talk. 00:40:06.000 --> 00:40:09.000 'Hello?' I say. 'Hey.' He responds. 00:40:09.000 --> 00:40:13.000 'I was just calling to invite you and Lola to Thanksgiving dinner.' 00:40:13.000 --> 00:40:15.000 ''.Tears''. 00:40:15.000 --> 00:40:20.000 From that day on, my dad has been my biggest supporter. And besides my relationship with myself, 00:40:20.000 --> 00:40:26.000 the connection that was clarified, rebuilt, and strenghtened the most from my coming out, was my relationship with him. 00:40:26.000 --> 00:40:30.000 Tonight, I'm here with my partner. Who has a penis. 00:40:30.000 --> 00:40:33.000 I'm navigating my way through coming out again. 00:40:33.000 --> 00:40:37.000 This time coming out as a queer woman who has fallen in love with a cis man. 00:40:37.000 --> 00:40:43.000 The space and the healing of the last 5 years spent in relationship with women has allowed me to find my voice, 00:40:43.000 --> 00:40:51.000 my perspective, my way of f- showing up fully in relationship with another person. Something that I felt sure I could never do with a man. 00:40:51.000 --> 00:40:58.000 And here I am, falling more in love with myself everyday as I journey into this new territory of being completely true to myself 00:40:58.000 --> 00:40:64.000 while sharing my life with him. And those night terrors? They're a distant memory. 00:41:04.000 --> 00:41:20.000 [music] 00:41:20.000 --> 00:41:27.000 I grew up in Baltimore in the 1950's, in the 'Leave it to Beaver Generation' thinking that women were meant to find a good husband 00:41:27.000 --> 00:41:32.000 and have children, and men were meant to go out and earn a living to support the family. 00:41:32.000 --> 00:41:39.000 My parents had dreams of me marrying a nice Jewish professional man, a dentist perhaps, have children, 00:41:39.000 --> 00:41:46.000 and ride off into the sunset. [audience laughter] The closest I came to this was a marriage proposal from a very nice Catholic guy 00:41:46.000 --> 00:41:51.000 who had studied to become a priest, offering to convert to Judaism for me. 00:41:51.000 --> 00:41:58.000 But I just couldn't cozy up to the idea of marrying anyone, much less a guy who was, was about to become a priest. 00:41:58.000 --> 00:41:66.000 So, I went running from that scene and never again dated any man. Jewish or not. 00:42:06.000 --> 00:42:12.000 In my high school and college years, my mother was always trying to get me to dress up, have my curly hair styled, 00:42:12.000 --> 00:42:19.000 and put on some bright colored lipstick. She wanted me ready for some potential 'Mr. Wonderful'. 00:42:19.000 --> 00:42:24.000 But I rebelled, and headed in the opposite direction, more to my liking. 00:42:24.000 --> 00:42:33.000 Dating was never a big part of my teen years. It just didn't interest me. The little dating I did felt unnatural and forced. 00:42:33.000 --> 00:42:37.000 Just going through the motions without any heart or excitement to it. 00:42:37.000 --> 00:42:44.000 I much preferred being in the company of my girlfriends. Always more fun than a boring date with some guy. 00:42:44.000 --> 00:42:50.000 Through the years, I had crushes on some of my friends, but I never really thought about it, or what it meant. 00:42:50.000 --> 00:42:58.000 It just never dawned on me to think of myself as one thing or another, lesbian or straight. 00:42:58.000 --> 00:42:61.000 It just wasn't part of my vocabulary at the time. 00:43:01.000 --> 00:43:07.000 The 'L' word was never uttered, not in high school, and not in college. 00:43:07.000 --> 00:43:14.000 That conversation didn't happen until after I left Maryland and came to Oregon in 1970. 00:43:14.000 --> 00:43:19.000 It wasn't until 1971 that everything broke loose and opened up. 00:43:19.000 --> 00:43:26.000 My move to Oregon came on the heels of the Viet Nam War protests, hippie caravans, love-ins, and the beginnings of the 00:43:26.000 --> 00:43:30.000 Women's Liberation Movement and sexual freedom. 00:43:38.000 --> 00:43:50.000 where people were encouraged to, to speak their minds and be themselves, and that included coming out of the closet. 00:43:50.000 --> 00:43:53.000 'Gay Pride' was here. 00:43:53.000 --> 00:43:60.000 My move to Oregon was the beginning of a new life for me, and there was no going back to my previous life in Maryland. 00:44:00.000 --> 00:44:09.000 I didn't know that in 1971 I was about to meet my life partner, 44 years and counting, at a Women's Consciousness Raising Group 00:44:09.000 --> 00:44:16.000 in Salem, and that together we would 'come out of the closet' to these women, to our friends and our family, 00:44:16.000 --> 00:44:25.000 that we would speak at schools and come out, saying the words, 'I am gay, I am a lesbian.'. 00:44:25.000 --> 00:44:34.000 We dressed ourselves in our lesbian/hippie uniforms of overalls, plaid shirts, and boots, and went out to tell our story. [audience laughter] 00:44:34.000 --> 00:44:40.000 We were received well, and sometimes applauded by those who heard our message. 00:44:40.000 --> 00:44:43.000 Coming out to friends and co-workers was the easy part. 00:44:43.000 --> 00:44:49.000 They rallied around us, and seemed to love us even more for being brave enough to be ourselves. 00:44:49.000 --> 00:44:54.000 My brother and sister were fine about it too'they were not surprised. [audience laughter] 00:44:54.000 --> 00:44:62.000 But it was telling my mother that concerned me. I knew she wouldn't be applauding this news. 00:45:02.000 --> 00:45:10.000 Regretfully, I came out to my mother by phone, probably not the best way to do it, but I was in Oregon and she was in Maryland. 00:45:10.000 --> 00:45:20.000 She didn't say much in response to the awkward words, 'I love women.', that I blurted out over the phone. [audience laughter] 00:45:20.000 --> 00:45:27.000 I just couldn't say the word 'lesbian' to her. I don't think it mattered. She didn't like it. 00:45:27.000 --> 00:45:30.000 But she accepted it because she had to. 00:45:30.000 --> 00:45:35.000 We rarely spoke about it, and there was always that missing piece in our relationship. 00:45:35.000 --> 00:45:44.000 She still loved me, and nev- but never got to know my Oregon family very well, my partner and our children. 00:45:44.000 --> 00:45:52.000 That is the saddest part to me. I think if we had lived closer, she would have gotten to know us as a real family. 00:45:52.000 --> 00:45:55.000 I wish I had done more to make that happen. 00:45:55.000 --> 00:45:63.000 Together, we would go on to raise two children, have four grand-children and yes, one great-grand-child'.so far. 00:46:03.000 --> 00:46:11.000 We were just living our lives, benefiting from the ground work that was laid early on in the late 60's and early 70's. 00:46:11.000 --> 00:46:26.000 [music] 00:46:26.000 --> 00:46:28.000 It happened in the fourth grade: 00:46:28.000 --> 00:46:35.000 Boys noticing girls, Girls noticing boys, I noticed her. 00:46:35.000 --> 00:46:45.000 Dark coiled coal locks, pale skin with freckles on her nose. Sasha was my- new from Ukraine, my new friend. 00:46:45.000 --> 00:46:53.000 It was my junior year in high school. After a wrestling tournament, dinner seemed off. We were all so silent. 00:46:53.000 --> 00:46:60.000 The argument with my dad didn't help. After having tacos con papa y queso my mum cleared the table, 00:47:00.000 --> 00:47:07.000 sisters watching cartoons on the T.V., while my dad and I sat opposite heads of the table. 00:47:07.000 --> 00:47:13.000 Dad took a swig from his Corona, forehead shining from his uh, his forehead shining from sweat. 00:47:13.000 --> 00:47:18.000 My heart at my throat, I didn't know what to expect. 00:47:18.000 --> 00:47:23.000 Dad's lips disappeared behind his mustache, with a swift motion he got up and grabbed me by the throat, 00:47:23.000 --> 00:47:30.000 I was winded as my lungs struggled to breathe. [speaking Spanish] 'Why did you hug her?' he yelled. 00:47:30.000 --> 00:47:34.000 Tears blurred my vision, burned my cheeks, drowning me. 00:47:34.000 --> 00:47:39.000 She was my cheer captain. It was just a hug. 00:47:39.000 --> 00:47:42.000 I feared my own life. 00:47:42.000 --> 00:47:49.000 My mind burned with his voice echoing [speaking Spanish] 'I won't have a dyke for a daughter!' 00:47:49.000 --> 00:47:51.000 I never even came out. 00:47:51.000 --> 00:47:54.000 Grounded by my Mexican roots, I couldn't win this argument. 00:47:58.000 --> 00:47:62.000 I don't just like boys, I don't just like girls, 00:48:02.000 --> 00:48:09.000 The binary doesn't bind me or others for that matter, I still don't know me. 00:48:09.000 --> 00:48:15.000 I had boyfriends, never girlfriends. Maybe I am straight? 00:48:15.000 --> 00:48:22.000 This closet seems nice but no outfit suits me. Straight doesn't suit me. 00:48:22.000 --> 00:48:26.000 Finding the identity that looks and fits well on me. 00:48:26.000 --> 00:48:31.000 Meeting others along the way. I'm finding my footing. Support all around. 00:48:31.000 --> 00:48:36.000 [deep breath] I can finally breathe. 00:48:36.000 --> 00:48:43.000 I know I'm not straight. I don't just like boys and I don't just like girls, 00:48:43.000 --> 00:48:45.000 I'm pansexual. 00:48:45.000 --> 00:48:58.000 [music] 00:48:58.000 --> 00:48:70.000 My brother stole my secret! 00:49:10.000 --> 00:49:17.000 He took my oh-so exciting secret. 00:49:17.000 --> 00:49:23.000 Leaning toward, um. I'm sorry I'm having trouble seeing. 00:49:23.000 --> 00:49:30.000 Ok. [laughs] Leaning towards my'what? 00:49:30.000 --> 00:49:33.000 [in ASL: Move the microphone closer] 00:49:33.000 --> 00:49:41.000 Can you hear me? 00:49:41.000 --> 00:49:45.000 OK. Thank you. This helps. 00:49:45.000 --> 00:49:53.000 Leaning forward close to my mother's face, my brother said to her, 'Your daughter, that you raised, is a lesbian.' 00:49:53.000 --> 00:49:56.000 Those words thundered in my head. 00:49:56.000 --> 00:49:66.000 I can still remember the feeling of blood draining from my body, how my body felt, my nerves shaking. 00:50:06.000 --> 00:50:17.000 My hands gripping, gripping the uh, the pillar of my mother's newly opened candy store. 00:50:17.000 --> 00:50:22.000 Mom was standing at the cash register where my brother was just opposite of her. 00:50:22.000 --> 00:50:30.000 At first my mother was just standing there calling my brother a liar and telling him to get out of the candy store. 00:50:30.000 --> 00:50:36.000 'How could you!' escaped my lips with fire blazing in my eyes. 00:50:36.000 --> 00:50:45.000 I can just barely remember the shock of my mother's face when she whispered to me, 'Is this true?' 00:50:45.000 --> 00:50:52.000 The next thing I knew, I chased the son of a bitch out of the store calling him a fucking coward. 00:50:52.000 --> 00:50:55.000 I made it to the front door with tears streaming down my face. 00:50:55.000 --> 00:50:60.000 Two ladies were just walking across the street turned around to look at me bewildered. 00:51:00.000 --> 00:51:05.000 My brother was gone. 00:51:05.000 --> 00:51:12.000 Breathing hard with clenched fists, my insides still shaking, I turned to face my mother. 00:51:12.000 --> 00:51:20.000 She said to me, 'Now I won't be able to see my grandchildren again, thanks a lot!' 00:51:20.000 --> 00:51:29.000 Devastated, I ran to the back of the store, pulled my knees to the chest, to my chest and just bawled, thinking, "I wasn't ready." 00:51:29.000 --> 00:51:36.000 "My parents aren't ready for this." I had just only kissed a girl just a month before. 00:51:36.000 --> 00:51:51.000 Mom eventually came to the back of the store. She said to me, 'Call work, you're in no shape to go in, I'll take you home.' 00:51:51.000 --> 00:51:55.000 All I could do was go through the motions. 00:51:55.000 --> 00:51:61.000 I picked up the phone and called in, but they said, said they needed me and so I went to work. 00:52:01.000 --> 00:52:07.000 I felt nothing, flat, drained and distant. 00:52:07.000 --> 00:52:16.000 The shrieking beeps from the fryer that once annoyed the hell out of me were muffled, the faces blurred together while taking orders. 00:52:16.000 --> 00:52:25.000 I can't tell you how many times I lost count of the Coke that I just kept dropping I couldn't hand them off to customers. 00:52:25.000 --> 00:52:29.000 For once, mopping duty was welcomed. 00:52:29.000 --> 00:52:38.000 I always, I always hated getting stuck with that duty, but today, no arguments. 00:52:38.000 --> 00:52:46.000 I took the mop and bin and slowly, quietly mopped the lobby. 00:52:46.000 --> 00:52:49.000 All day, all I could think, "I wasn't ready for this." 00:52:49.000 --> 00:52:54.000 He stole my identity and crushed it into a million pieces. 00:52:54.000 --> 00:52:61.000 The identity I wanted to explore before telling my judgmental parents. 00:53:01.000 --> 00:53:05.000 None of my girlfriends were welcomed to my home. 00:53:05.000 --> 00:53:12.000 Honestly, I wouldn't dare bring them home, not to my loving but dysfunctional family. [laughs] 00:53:12.000 --> 00:53:19.000 Each time I spoke about a friend, a girl, an eyebrow would shoot up and I would have to emphasize, 00:53:19.000 --> 00:53:29.000 'No mom, no dad, she's straight, I'm not fucking the girl.' 00:53:29.000 --> 00:53:36.000 I'm not sure which is worse to be asked: 'Is he black or is she queer?' 00:53:36.000 --> 00:53:42.000 It seems like my parents have a long way to go; after all, it is 2015. 00:53:42.000 --> 00:53:45.000 My brother stole my secret and crammed it down my mother's throat. 00:53:45.000 --> 00:53:49.000 Who does that? 00:53:49.000 --> 00:53:57.000 Last Christmas, my brother genuinely apologized to me, twenty years later. 00:53:57.000 --> 00:53:64.000 I forgave him, not for his benefit but for mine. 00:54:04.000 --> 00:54:16.000 Regardless, that day is still a part of me. You can put together, you can put together a broken plate, a glass, or vase. 00:54:16.000 --> 00:54:23.000 But you can still see the cracks. 00:54:23.000 --> 00:54:32.000 [audience applause] 00:54:32.000 --> 00:54:40.000 I just to clarify something. My name is Jenny Lynn Dietrich and I am pansexual. 00:54:40.000 --> 00:54:42.000 [audience applause]. 00:54:42.000 --> 00:54:45.000 [music] 00:54:45.000 --> 00:54:50.000 Gender is weird, and I don't like it. [audience laughter] 00:54:50.000 --> 00:54:58.000 I've always better identified with women, and I think that if I had the freedom as a child I would have grown up happier as a woman. 00:54:58.000 --> 00:54:63.000 I remember having a talk with my parents about wanting to be a girl after they caught me dressing like 00:55:03.000 --> 00:55:08.000 Sandy from the last scene of "Grease". [audience laughter] 00:55:08.000 --> 00:55:13.000 I told them I wanted to be a girl, because girls were prettier. 00:55:13.000 --> 00:55:21.000 My parents didn't condemn this idea, but they discouraged it by telling me that as a boy I could do whatever a woman can. 00:55:21.000 --> 00:55:27.000 I remember still feeling defeated. Nonetheless in every video game, I would choose to be a girl. 00:55:27.000 --> 00:55:34.000 I used to wear these blue gym shorts on my head and put the excess material in a ponytail while I ran around playing imagin- imaginary games 00:55:34.000 --> 00:55:39.000 with my little friends. I still love when my hair gets long. 00:55:39.000 --> 00:55:49.000 And I love makeup, but whenever I try to wear eyeliner or eyeshadow I get really upset because I don't think I can pull it off. 00:55:49.000 --> 00:55:56.000 Growing up when people called me a girl it would upset me, because I wasn't masculine and I was being punished for that. 00:55:56.000 --> 00:55:62.000 It always felt wrong to me when classes would have us split up guys and girls. In high school they had us split up by gender 00:56:02.000 --> 00:56:07.000 one day in health class. The girls were allowed to ask questions about the way men think, 00:56:07.000 --> 00:56:13.000 and the men could do the same. I felt like I should be on the other side. 00:56:13.000 --> 00:56:19.000 I was constantly reminded that I was a lesser person for being feminine or a "girl", and I have memories of my friends 00:56:19.000 --> 00:56:27.000 reminding me that I was a boy. Most of my friends are girls and when I tried to relate to their experiences I'm often discredited for being a 00:56:27.000 --> 00:56:35.000 boy. Like wanting to be my current best friend's maid of honor, and being told I can't because I'm a boy. 00:56:35.000 --> 00:56:41.000 To be rejected like this by the people that showed me the most acceptance is very confusing. 00:56:41.000 --> 00:56:49.000 So, I have a weird relationship with pronouns. I feel warm and happy when people use feminine pronouns in a positive way, 00:56:49.000 --> 00:56:53.000 but the second it's negative I jump to the defensive. 00:56:53.000 --> 00:56:60.000 If I ask everyone to use femin- feminine pronouns it would be so painful to hear the discomfort in their voices. 00:57:00.000 --> 00:57:05.000 And I would worry about being challenged for wanting to identify as a woman. 00:57:05.000 --> 00:57:13.000 People would ask about my appearance, how I feel about my body, and why I "don't want to be a man" blah, blah, blah complications. 00:57:13.000 --> 00:57:22.000 I wish there was a "Pronoun Switch" on my wall that I could flip and everyone would start using 'she' and 'her'. 00:57:22.000 --> 00:57:27.000 I still battle with femininity because it is more apparent than my masculinity. 00:57:27.000 --> 00:57:35.000 But I like that my masculinity and my femininity are present and visible in my personality. 00:57:35.000 --> 00:57:42.000 I know in my heart that I identify as a woman but I'm still fig- figuring out what that means for me. 00:57:42.000 --> 00:57:47.000 If there were a way I could go into a machine and come out with a fully functioning 00:57:47.000 --> 00:57:53.000 functional body of a woman, I would. 00:57:53.000 --> 00:57:69.000 [music] 00:58:09.000 --> 00:58:15.000 It was my friend's 'coming out trip.' We went on an erotic lesbian reading, 00:58:15.000 --> 00:58:21.000 a certified gay dance, met up with another college friend who had shared these struggles of self discovery 00:58:21.000 --> 00:58:25.000 and ate and shopped and ate and shopped. 00:58:25.000 --> 00:58:32.000 Now, the 'other' friend, the ally who came along for the trip, I had met twice before on visits to Alaska. 00:58:32.000 --> 00:58:39.000 She was hoping re- to retire in the next year or two and move to Portland, perfect opportunity for her to get the lay of the neighborhoods 00:58:39.000 --> 00:58:47.000 and see what she might like. By day two, the 'other' friend and I were flirting like crazy although I did not, 00:58:47.000 --> 00:58:55.000 at the time, identify it as such. There seemed to be a magnet pulling me to her. 00:58:55.000 --> 00:58:61.000 On day five, she borrowed my bike and managed a spill that hurt her back so we kept her on ice and rest 00:59:01.000 --> 00:59:06.000 while 'Coming Out" friend and I had a dance party in my living room. 00:59:06.000 --> 00:59:12.000 My husband sat in s corner, on his computer, fairly un-phased by any and all events. 00:59:12.000 --> 00:59:20.000 I went to take a new ice pack to the 'other' friend and as I went to place it behind her back, 00:59:20.000 --> 00:59:24.000 I came VERY close to her face. 00:59:24.000 --> 00:59:33.000 I jumped back, she called me a 'tease' and I ran back to the living room to keep dancing and figure out what the hell had just happened. 00:59:33.000 --> 00:59:39.000 Had I wanted to kiss her? Oh no, I couldn't have! I had never been attracted to a woman and believe me, 00:59:39.000 --> 00:59:45.000 I had asked myself a hundred times if I could be. 00:59:45.000 --> 00:59:52.000 I was fine being married to a man and if it wasn't to my particular husband, I was pretty sure it would be to some other man. 00:59:52.000 --> 00:59:62.000 I thought, 'Oh, I'm sure I'm just caught up in the fun with my friends and when they go back to Alaska, I will go back to 'normal.' 01:00:02.000 --> 01:00:06.000 That evening, in Portland, "Coming Out" friend had an appointment, 01:00:06.000 --> 01:00:10.000 the "other" friend and I were left alone. 01:00:10.000 --> 01:00:19.000 We sat on separate beds and decided we needed a nap. The 2-4 hours of sleep a night had not been serving us well. 01:00:19.000 --> 01:00:22.000 But, I couldn't sleep. 01:00:22.000 --> 01:00:32.000 I turned to her and said, 'Can we talk?' and she immediately replied, 'Yes, please!' 01:00:32.000 --> 01:00:43.000 I tried to explain how I had never been attracted to a woman before and I didn't understand what, what was going on and then I said, 01:00:43.000 --> 01:00:46.000 'But I want to kiss you.' 01:00:46.000 --> 01:00:55.000 And she, she looked at me and said, 'Get over here.' [audience laughter] 01:00:55.000 --> 01:00:63.000 For a moment I hesitated, but then I moved to her bed where she gave me a big hug but I said, 01:01:03.000 --> 01:01:12.000 'I can't kiss you. I'm married and I don't know what all of this means but I can't act on it right now.' 01:01:12.000 --> 01:01:16.000 When I got home I was grouchy and exhausted and I went straight to bed. 01:01:16.000 --> 01:01:26.000 I woke up, rolled over, looked at my husband, who seemed to be long awake, and blurted out, 01:01:26.000 --> 01:01:29.000 'I'm in love with Tina!' 01:01:29.000 --> 01:01:39.000 A brief silence followed by a choked up voice when he asked if I told her, and I replied, 'Yes.' 01:01:39.000 --> 01:01:45.000 He asked what she said and I told him that she felt the same way. 01:01:45.000 --> 01:01:53.000 The first tear rolled down his cheek, I had only seen a few of those in our 11 years together. 01:01:53.000 --> 01:01:59.000 By now I was crying, too, and I told him that we couldn't be together. 01:01:59.000 --> 01:01:65.000 We continued to cry and talk for a couple of hours, and it was all very tender. 01:02:05.000 --> 01:02:10.000 In response to my confusion about my feelings, he just said, 01:02:10.000 --> 01:02:16.000 'Well, age and ethnicity have never been deciding factors for you, why would gender be?' 01:02:16.000 --> 01:02:23.000 At this I was just amazed, in silent awe of his understanding. 01:02:23.000 --> 01:02:28.000 I called Tina and told her what I had done and she called me 'brave.' 01:02:28.000 --> 01:02:33.000 I wasn't so sure; I couldn't put my feelings around 'brave.' 01:02:33.000 --> 01:02:40.000 But less than three months later, with the help of my soon to be ex-husband, I moved to Alaska and began my new life with Tina. 01:02:40.000 --> 01:02:47.000 Those three months were filled with excruciating one on ones and 'interventions' with my family. 01:02:47.000 --> 01:02:55.000 Were they more upset by my divorce or a same sex partner? I'm not sure I'll ever know. 01:02:55.000 --> 01:02:66.000 But the point is this, I found myself, I found my person, I found happiness I had not known before, and I looked forward to life. 01:03:06.000 --> 01:03:18.000 I'm finding my tribe and while it's sometimes painful that my tribe is not always, or much of, my biological family, I'm grateful for every member. 01:03:18.000 --> 01:03:23.000 I'm humbled by the light and the support that so many do offer and, 01:03:23.000 --> 01:03:32.000 I am beyond ecstatic to marry Tina this summer and finally be able to call her my wife. 01:03:32.000 --> 01:03:34.000 [audience applause] 01:03:34.000 --> 01:03:47.000 [music] 01:03:47.000 --> 01:03:54.000 Klamath Falls: a place defined by Urban Dictionary as, 'The Anus of Oregon.' [audience laughter] 01:03:54.000 --> 01:03:64.000 With a title like that would't it seem like it would be any gay man's paradise? [audience laughter] [laughter] 01:04:04.000 --> 01:04:10.000 Unfortunately, Klamath Falls didn't live up to Urban Dic- to the expectations of what the Urban Dictionary said. 01:04:10.000 --> 01:04:16.000 Instead of being a big gay Shangri La, Klamath Falls reenacted the Seventh Circle of Hell to people identifying within the queer 01:04:16.000 --> 01:04:23.000 community. You see, I've known that I was gay since I was twelve: my friends and I were goofing off on a trampoline. 01:04:23.000 --> 01:04:29.000 One of my guy friends fell on top of me, and, well, something suddenly came up. [audience laughter] 01:04:29.000 --> 01:04:33.000 You know what it is [laugh]. 01:04:33.000 --> 01:04:38.000 Even though I've known about my sexuality since middle school, I didn't come out until I came here, to Western. 01:04:38.000 --> 01:04:43.000 You see, the vast majority of peop- the vast majority of people in Klamath Falls have conservative views, 01:04:43.000 --> 01:04:48.000 with the same beliefs and debate tact- debate tactics as Bill O'Reilly: 01:04:48.000 --> 01:04:54.000 if you thought human rights were more important than the second amendment, you were immediately seen as a threat. 01:04:54.000 --> 01:04:61.000 And needless to say, if I had come out back then I might not be here today. 01:05:01.000 --> 01:05:06.000 Though the citizens of Klamath Falls were already unbearable, the high school I attended made the entire experience of being a 01:05:06.000 --> 01:05:10.000 closeted gay youth into an inescapable nightmare. 01:05:10.000 --> 01:05:17.000 Henley High School, nicknamed 'Cow Pie High,' a rather suitable name for a school located in the anus of Oregon, [audience laughter] 01:05:17.000 --> 01:05:23.000 was a special blend of anti-queer ide- ideology. Populated by boon-dock hicks, conservative Christians, 01:05:23.000 --> 01:05:29.000 and the general highschool assholes (not the kind coveted by those gays though), [audience laughter] 01:05:29.000 --> 01:05:34.000 Henley became the place of my nightmares. Especially the nightmares of losing the few friends I had. 01:05:34.000 --> 01:05:41.000 In a school as small Henley, that lacked any form of GSA or even mentioning of one, closeted kids like me had to take whom we could get. 01:05:41.000 --> 01:05:48.000 Hence, almost all of my friends were some sort of conservative religious person, which made my situation even more terrifying. 01:05:48.000 --> 01:05:53.000 I could handle the thought of people I didn't even care about rejecting me for being gay, but I couldn't stomach the idea of 01:05:53.000 --> 01:05:58.000 losing the few people I held dear to me. This epiphany hit me during the fall of my junior year, 01:05:58.000 --> 01:05:61.000 the year when I would start reaching my hand out to the closet door, 01:06:01.000 --> 01:06:06.000 wanting nothing more than to burst out covered in glitter and make myself known to the world. [audience laughter] 01:06:06.000 --> 01:06:14.000 In 2010, the world observed the first Spirit Day: a day of solidarity for those lives lost dor- due to LGBTQ bullying, bullying in schools. 01:06:14.000 --> 01:06:17.000 For Spirit Day, people are supposed to wear purple to show their solidarity. 01:06:17.000 --> 01:06:22.000 Because purple stands for 'spirit' in the Pride flag. 01:06:22.000 --> 01:06:29.000 Unfortunately, I didn't own anything purple because, you know, colors gendered and that sucks, but I wanted to show in some 01:06:29.000 --> 01:06:33.000 way that I cared even in the hell hole that was Henley. 01:06:33.000 --> 01:06:37.000 So, in French class that day, I asked my friend Krichele if I could borrow her purple marker. 01:06:37.000 --> 01:06:42.000 When she asked why, I just started talking to her about what Spirit Day and what it represented, 01:06:42.000 --> 01:06:47.000 to which she immediately, and cattily, replied, 'You know I'm against that, RIGHT?' 01:06:47.000 --> 01:06:53.000 As soon as she said those words, my heart jumped. What would she have thought if she had known I was gay? 01:06:53.000 --> 01:06:57.000 Even though she wasn't one of my closest friends and she never did accept my friend request on Facebook by the way, 01:06:57.000 --> 01:06:64.000 not a good friend. [laugh] [audience laughter] I still couldn't bear the thought of losing one of the few people I had at that school. 01:07:04.000 --> 01:07:09.000 Because of what she had- because of what she said, I had to pull my hand away from the closet door, 01:07:09.000 --> 01:07:12.000 leaving me trapped in a state of self-hatred and despair. 01:07:12.000 --> 01:07:17.000 After I've come to Western, a lot of people have asked me, 'How the hell did you survive Klamath Falls?" 01:07:17.000 --> 01:07:20.000 "Better yet, how the fuck did you survive Henley High School?' 01:07:20.000 --> 01:07:24.000 And the answer to that is actually really simple. My parents. 01:07:24.000 --> 01:07:31.000 When it comes to parents, I won the freaking lottery. My parents have known that I was some sort of queer since I was about two years 01:07:31.000 --> 01:07:37.000 old. When I was two I told my mom that I don't think that I'm supposed to be a boy, I think I'm supposed to be a girl. 01:07:37.000 --> 01:07:41.000 And so my original coming out story was when I was two years old. 01:07:41.000 --> 01:07:46.000 And ever since then my parents have shown me nothing but the utmost support. 01:07:46.000 --> 01:07:52.000 Showing, like opening- openly discussing queer identities with me and encouraging me to watch queer and trans related shows just so 01:07:52.000 --> 01:07:58.000 I could get a grasp on who I was. And since then I have changed from my two year old perspective of being a trans woman, 01:07:58.000 --> 01:07:66.000 now I identify as a gay man. [1 clap from audience] Um, I'm not done yet, don't clap yet. [laugh] [audience laughter] 01:08:06.000 --> 01:08:12.000 And they were fantastic parents and for Klamath Falls they are the most amazing people ever. 01:08:12.000 --> 01:08:20.000 But even though I had that strong support system at home I just couldn't bear the thought of coming out in, in Klamath Falls. 01:08:20.000 --> 01:08:28.000 So I didn't come out until I came here to Western, which has given me the best queer environment I could have asked for, which I'm very thankful for. 01:08:28.000 --> 01:08:32.000 Growing up in a small, bible-thumping town is one of the hardest things for a closeted youth to go through. 01:08:32.000 --> 01:08:38.000 For myself, the threat of losing my friends and being tortured at school paralyzed me from realizing that there were people who 01:08:38.000 --> 01:08:44.000 would accept me for who I am no matter what. I never understood that I could have come out to my family back then, 01:08:44.000 --> 01:08:47.000 and that I could have had one area of that town where I felt safe. 01:08:47.000 --> 01:08:53.000 I let my fear take con- take control of me, and I lost the opportunity to give myself the haven that I desperately needed. 01:08:53.000 --> 01:08:57.000 If I could give any advice to young people who are going through similar situations to what I went through, 01:08:57.000 --> 01:08:64.000 I would tell them to find that person, find that person who was like my parents. 01:09:04.000 --> 01:09:08.000 Someone who is going to understand who they are, and someone who won't turn away from them. 01:09:08.000 --> 01:09:14.000 Because even if you don't come out to them, they're still going- they're still going to save your life because my parents saved mine. 01:09:14.000 --> 01:09:26.000 [music] 01:09:26.000 --> 01:09:33.000 I figured out I was gay in 1995 when I fell in love with my neighbor in the dorms my freshman year of college. 01:09:33.000 --> 01:09:40.000 For several months, I didn't tell anyone about my new discovery, but as the summer wore on, I decided to confide in my younger brother. 01:09:40.000 --> 01:09:46.000 When I finally told him, his response was, 'Oh you're gay, that's all?' [audience laughter] 01:09:46.000 --> 01:09:57.000 'I was worried it was something bad like cancer, or worse, that you were pregnant!' [audience laughter] 01:09:57.000 --> 01:09:64.000 He went on to say that now the wallet in the back pocket, the Doc Marten boots, the watch the size of my head, all made sense. 01:10:04.000 --> 01:10:07.000 [audience laughter] 01:10:07.000 --> 01:10:12.000 Near Christmas of 1999, my whole family packed up and went to see the Seattle Men's Chorus. 01:10:12.000 --> 01:10:17.000 Each year we did something special around the holidays as a family, usually in Seattle. 01:10:17.000 --> 01:10:26.000 This year my mom chose our event ''" why she picked the Seattle Men's Chorus ''" an all gay, 200 man musical extravaganza ''" 01:10:26.000 --> 01:10:29.000 I have no idea. [audience laughter] 01:10:29.000 --> 01:10:33.000 But we all jumped in the car and drove up to Seattle for the concert. 01:10:33.000 --> 01:10:39.000 My first clue that this would be a notable evening should have been that my dad experienced men in lace-up leather pants 01:10:39.000 --> 01:10:44.000 and mesh shirts for probably the first time ever. [audience laughter] 01:10:44.000 --> 01:10:50.000 Also, the women in the audience tended to come in sensibly shod pairs. 01:10:50.000 --> 01:10:55.000 The concert ended with Baby New year wearing a light-up diaper swiveling his hips suggestively 01:10:55.000 --> 01:10:63.000 on stage as all the auditorium lights blacked out to mimic Y2K. [audience laughter] 01:11:03.000 --> 01:11:12.000 As we drove home, the car was unusually quiet, [audience laughter] 01:11:12.000 --> 01:11:23.000 with the exception of my mom, who could not get over what a fantastic event we had just witnessed. [audience laughter] 01:11:23.000 --> 01:11:32.000 She exclaimed, 'They were so musical, and so handsome, [audience laughter] and had such showmanship, and just think, 01:11:32.000 --> 01:11:39.000 they're ALL GAY! They look so normal!' 01:11:39.000 --> 01:11:45.000 Then she announced, 'Well, it just goes to show, you never know who's going to be gay!' 01:11:45.000 --> 01:11:48.000 [audience laughter] 01:11:48.000 --> 01:11:53.000 The car fell totally silent. [audience laughter] 01:11:53.000 --> 01:11:61.000 My brother gave me a death stare from the backseat [audience laughter] as if to say, 01:12:01.000 --> 01:12:08.000 'The shit is about to hit the fan, and we are all going to drive off the road in a fiery crash, and it's going to be YOUR fault'! 01:12:08.000 --> 01:12:13.000 [audience laughter] 01:12:13.000 --> 01:12:20.000 In response to my mother's pronouncement, all I said was, 'Yup'. [audience laughter] 01:12:20.000 --> 01:12:30.000 To which my brother said, 'Yup.' and my dad went along with the crowd I guess, and also said, 'Yup.' [audience laughter] 01:12:30.000 --> 01:12:35.000 We agreed, you just never know who's going to be gay. [audience laughter] 01:12:35.000 --> 01:12:42.000 Shortly after the Christmas near miss, I decided that I should find an adult confidant in whom I could entrust my story. 01:12:42.000 --> 01:12:49.000 I chose my piano teacher, since I knew she had gay male friends, and after all, if she was even remotely connected to show business 01:12:49.000 --> 01:12:52.000 she must be open minded. [audience laughter] 01:12:52.000 --> 01:12:59.000 However, I learned that timing and location are everything - I chose to come out to her at the roller rink. 01:12:59.000 --> 01:12:65.000 We were there with her two young daughters whom I had babysat for several years and as they shot ahead of us, 01:13:05.000 --> 01:13:12.000 she and I wobbled around the corner on our four square skates, and I said, 'So, I'm gay'. [audience laughter] 01:13:12.000 --> 01:13:15.000 She turned her head and looked at me in surprise and said, 01:13:15.000 --> 01:13:22.000 'What?!' just before she forcefully fell over backwards. [audience laughter] 01:13:22.000 --> 01:13:29.000 They had to clear the rink while they helped her off to the seating area [audience laughter] with a suspected mild concussion. 01:13:29.000 --> 01:13:31.000 [audience laughter] 01:13:31.000 --> 01:13:38.000 I felt terrible! But to her credit, she was very supportive, smiling and nodding and promising not to tell my parents. 01:13:38.000 --> 01:13:41.000 [audience laughter] 01:13:41.000 --> 01:13:48.000 By summer of 2000, I realized it was time to tell my parents. I was in graduate school, about 5 hours away from home, 01:13:48.000 --> 01:13:53.000 and my mom was down for a visit. I looked at her in earnest and said, 01:13:53.000 --> 01:13:55.000 'I have something to tell you'. 01:13:55.000 --> 01:13:60.000 She looked back at me and immediately realized I was very serious and so we sat down on the couch and I said, 01:14:00.000 --> 01:14:08.000 'You know how you're always asking if I've met any nice boys? Well the thing is, I'm not into boys.' 01:14:08.000 --> 01:14:11.000 and I burst into tears. 01:14:11.000 --> 01:14:13.000 My mom was fantastic! 01:14:13.000 --> 01:14:20.000 She consoled me and said that she was surprised, but in hind sight, perhaps the clues had been there. 01:14:20.000 --> 01:14:24.000 After a long talk, I sent her on the drive home with a book called Now That You Know, 01:14:24.000 --> 01:14:31.000 [audience laughter] and a card with information about joining PFLAG. 01:14:31.000 --> 01:14:37.000 I knew she had made it home when my dad called and said, 'So, your mom told me your news, 01:14:37.000 --> 01:14:45.000 [audience laughter] 01:14:45.000 --> 01:14:51.000 and I just want to say that I love you very much and I haven't lost a daughter, I've gained one.' 01:14:51.000 --> 01:14:57.000 Over the next few days, I started receiving letters and phone calls from relatives, family friends, [audience laughter] even our 01:14:57.000 --> 01:14:69.000 church pastor, all along the lines of, 'We heard you're gay! [audience laughter] Congratulations!' 01:15:09.000 --> 01:15:11.000 [audience laughter] 01:15:11.000 --> 01:15:18.000 I think my mom had taken it upon herself to spread the word and make it clear that if you weren't with her in being supportive, 01:15:18.000 --> 01:15:23.000 she would disown you! [audience laughter] 01:15:23.000 --> 01:15:28.000 My parents (and friends and extended family) have continued to be extremely supportive ''" 01:15:28.000 --> 01:15:37.000 so much so that my parents are now on the board of their local PFLAG chapter and openly advocate for LGBT visibility and support. 01:15:37.000 --> 01:15:43.000 They help parents and friends of those coming out to work through shock, surprise, denial, and misunderstanding. 01:15:43.000 --> 01:15:49.000 Not everyone has as much support as I did coming out, and it can help to direct family members to support groups. 01:15:49.000 --> 01:15:56.000 I did finally find where my family draws the line of tolerance when I came home one summer and had gone off caffeine ''" 01:15:56.000 --> 01:15:58.000 [audience laughter] 01:15:58.000 --> 01:15:65.000 my mom said, 'Now look here, if you are a lesbian, fine; if you are gluten-free, fine; 01:16:05.000 --> 01:16:11.000 but people in this family drink coffee dammit!' [audience laughter] 01:16:11.000 --> 01:16:17.000 I am currently very comfortable in my life, surrounded by support, drinking coffee (albeit decaf). 01:16:17.000 --> 01:16:21.000 [audience applause] 01:16:21.000 --> 01:16:31.000 [music] 01:16:31.000 --> 01:16:39.000 So, my mother and I were always very close. We had a great relationship growing up. So I decided, I had to tell her. 01:16:39.000 --> 01:16:49.000 Because I felt like I couldn't keep this secret from my mother, I HAD to tell her. So I decided it was the time. 01:16:49.000 --> 01:16:53.000 I was looking for her and I found her in the kitchen. 01:16:53.000 --> 01:16:62.000 She was cutting up some celery and onions, ah, I noticed she was making spaghetti, my favorite meal. 01:17:02.000 --> 01:17:07.000 So I decided that I would stand next to my mother while she was chopping up these vegetables. 01:17:07.000 --> 01:17:12.000 We were standing next to each other just chatting with her. Shoulder to should was how we typically would chat. 01:17:12.000 --> 01:17:20.000 And I decided, ok, I'm going to go for it. I was a little nervous and she's just chopping away at the vegetables. 01:17:20.000 --> 01:17:27.000 And mom was like, 'What is it?' and I was like, 'Um, mom'I have something to tell you.' 01:17:27.000 --> 01:17:32.000 She was just chopping away, 'Yeah? What is it? What do you have to tell me?' 01:17:32.000 --> 01:17:39.000 'Um'I think I might be bisexual, yeah.' [audience laughter] 01:17:39.000 --> 01:17:42.000 What does my mother do? She's chopping away the vegetables, she stops- 01:17:42.000 --> 01:17:51.000 'No honey, you're gay.' [audience laughter and clapping] 01:17:51.000 --> 01:17:61.000 That was not the reaction I was expecting. I was like, 'Wow, uh, okay. Gay? What do you mean gay? I'm not gay, no I'm bisexual.' 01:18:01.000 --> 01:18:08.000 My mom said, 'Honey, we've known you were gay since you were little.' [audience laughter] 01:18:08.000 --> 01:18:14.000 'Seriously mom? Uh, okay'well'' 01:18:14.000 --> 01:18:21.000 My mother has always expected us- always accepted us the way we were. And then my sister actually ended up coming out as well. 01:18:21.000 --> 01:18:26.000 And she just loves both of us unconditionally and really enjoys her grandchildren. 01:18:26.000 --> 01:18:30.000 Now I have two children and she loves being with them as well. 01:18:30.000 --> 01:18:35.000 She's a very accepting mother. And I look back on that experience and the only one thing I would probably change was- 01:18:35.000 --> 01:18:43.000 the way I came out to my mother. I probably wouldn't have done it when she had a knife in her hand. [audience laughter] 01:18:43.000 --> 01:18:53.000 [music] 01:18:53.000 --> 01:18:63.000 The words I'd like to share with you this evening begin with my brother Jere who is about one year older than me and is gay. 01:19:03.000 --> 01:19:09.000 I'm a believer in love and human rights and legal rights and equality. 01:19:09.000 --> 01:19:17.000 When I was four years old Jere and I were walking along the hedge of a logging road near our house. 01:19:17.000 --> 01:19:24.000 The dirt broke away and in the ensuing landslide we were both buried alive. 01:19:24.000 --> 01:19:30.000 Jere managed to dig himself out and then me. 01:19:30.000 --> 01:19:44.000 For years after I had the same dark scary dream that would be like the aperture of a camera opening slowly to reveal my brother's face. 01:19:44.000 --> 01:19:55.000 We have always been close. I would love him even if he joined the Republican Party. [audience laughter] 01:19:55.000 --> 01:19:62.000 Um, after high school Jere paid for my first year of college, which I wasted. [audience laughter] 01:20:02.000 --> 01:20:07.000 Uh, actually I ditched class and got wasted with some buddies most of that year. [audience laughter] 01:20:07.000 --> 01:20:21.000 I got married to the love of my life on June 1, 1968. Um, and she's with me tonight. Her name is Sue. [audience applause] Thank you. 01:20:21.000 --> 01:20:35.000 Then Jere and I did two years in the Army from 1969 to 1971. He married Marcia while he was still in the Army and then moved to Portland. 01:20:35.000 --> 01:20:41.000 I stayed in Coos Bay and started working in the logging industry then later, teaching. 01:20:41.000 --> 01:20:48.000 Uh, we began raising a family and except for a couple of visits, Jere and I didn't have much contact. 01:20:48.000 --> 01:20:58.000 Jere came out in um, March of 1973 in the form of a letter sent to our immediate family. 01:20:58.000 --> 01:20:66.000 My dad came over to my house to talk about it and wondered what he had done to cause- caused Jere to be gay. 01:21:06.000 --> 01:21:11.000 I learned later apparently both of our parents thought that our father was the cause. [audience laughter] 01:21:11.000 --> 01:21:17.000 Um, it was no big deal for me. It had no direct effect on my life. 01:21:17.000 --> 01:21:27.000 Uh, Sue and I were, talked about it but we were busy with three kids, and work, and church so the topic didn't come up very often. 01:21:27.000 --> 01:21:37.000 Over the next 20 years, Jere lived in Hawaii, uh, New York City and finally settled in West Haven, CT. 01:21:37.000 --> 01:21:48.000 The next big and bad news regarding Jere came in May of 1989 when he was diagnosed HIV positive. 01:21:48.000 --> 01:21:59.000 I felt the ground shift under my feet. The idea of losing my brother to a disease that seemed like a sure death sentence was painful to think about. 01:21:59.000 --> 01:21:69.000 I wanted to do something but felt helpless due to the greatness of the distance and the meager resources at my disposal. 01:22:09.000 --> 01:22:19.000 Sue and I visited Jere the following year in October of 1990 about a month after he had started taking his first HIV drug. 01:22:19.000 --> 01:22:26.000 We never spoke about it but we all acted like it would the last time we would see each other. 01:22:26.000 --> 01:22:39.000 I know Jere has witnessed the um, I'm sorry, lost my place. Uh, I know Jere had witnessed the deaths of scores of his friends and loved ones. 01:22:39.000 --> 01:22:49.000 I think he is somehow managed, has somehow managed to cope with the grief while living a full and meaningful life. 01:22:49.000 --> 01:22:58.000 He is currently doing well, medically speaking. Due to constant monitoring and healthy living and I'm thankful for that. 01:22:58.000 --> 01:22:63.000 But I have never told him what a gift his life is to me. 01:23:03.000 --> 01:23:13.000 He owns and operates a home organization and cleaning service and is married to Allen and they live in Connecticut with their dog Flash. 01:23:13.000 --> 01:23:20.000 I'm here tonight to tell you that I'm coming out 100% support of all human and legal rights. 01:23:20.000 --> 01:23:30.000 Which I believe are overdue, owed to and deserved by all LBGTQA and every other letter you can think of. [audience laughter] 01:23:30.000 --> 01:23:37.000 Finally I have arrived at this conviction after reading a lot and listening to the struggles of loved ones, 01:23:37.000 --> 01:23:45.000 like CM and my brother Jere and les- many of my former students. 01:23:45.000 --> 01:23:54.000 There was a time when my words were opposed to my heart. I was raised in, lived in, and worked in an environment that gave little or 01:23:54.000 --> 01:23:61.000 no thought to the use of racist, bigoted or demeaning jokes or comments. 01:24:01.000 --> 01:24:09.000 I, it was the social currency I traded with friends, family, co-workers, and fellow Catholics. 01:24:09.000 --> 01:24:21.000 However, I have, as I have gained a greater understanding of love and our human family, such rhetoric and thoughts are not possible for me. 01:24:21.000 --> 01:24:27.000 My last two words for you are: Compassion and Love. 01:24:27.000 --> 01:24:36.000 I pray compassion is woven into every thought and action and love is more important than anything. 01:24:36.000 --> 01:24:43.000 LOVE is more important than ANYTHING. 01:24:43.000 --> 01:24:46.000 [audience applause] 01:24:46.000 --> 01:24:58.000 [music] 01:24:58.000 --> 01:24:63.000 The summer after fifth grade my mom took my brother and me on a road trip to San Francisco. 01:25:03.000 --> 01:25:09.000 Driving up and down the hilly streets of the city, I sat with my brother in the back seat of our minivan. 01:25:09.000 --> 01:25:15.000 We both were wearing cargo shorts, t-shirts and baseball hats; people used to think we were brothers [laugh]. 01:25:15.000 --> 01:25:21.000 It was there in our minivan, driving though San Francisco that my mom explained to us what homosexuality was. 01:25:21.000 --> 01:25:31.000 The exact words she used, I don't remember, but I was terrified. What if that was me? What if I was homosexual? What if I was different? 01:25:31.000 --> 01:25:41.000 I remember telling myself, that, as I looked across the Bay, tightly holding my baseball hat, that I was not going to be different. 01:25:41.000 --> 01:25:49.000 I started sixth grade that fall at a new school. I stood out, I was the new kid and I didn't dress or act like the rest of the girls in the class. 01:25:49.000 --> 01:25:58.000 The first day of school I wore my favorite baggy orange t-shirt and cargo shorts, and I was the only girl playing 01:25:58.000 --> 01:25:67.000 soccer with the boys at recess. One girl spent the first few days trying, of school trying to figure out whether I was a boy or a girl. 01:26:07.000 --> 01:26:16.000 I wanted to fit in, I didn't want to be different, so I changed. I stopped shopping in the boys section of the department store. 01:26:16.000 --> 01:26:20.000 I pierced my ears, and started wearing dresses and make-up. 01:26:20.000 --> 01:26:28.000 For the next fifteen years of my life I tried not to be "different" and just fit in. 01:26:28.000 --> 01:26:31.000 But then I met Jess. 01:26:31.000 --> 01:26:40.000 I was head over heels in love with a woman. I was embarrassed and ashamed, but now I ask myself, "Why?' 01:26:40.000 --> 01:26:48.000 When I finally came out to my close friends and family, they continued to love me. I was frightened by those who harassed me. 01:26:48.000 --> 01:26:54.000 The two individuals in the grocery store who remarked, ' Fucking homosexual.' under their breath 01:26:54.000 --> 01:26:62.000 or the guy in the parking lot who formed a gun with his hand and pointed it at me. 01:27:02.000 --> 01:27:06.000 I was annoyed by those who stared at my partner and I holding hands in a restaurant''" 01:27:06.000 --> 01:27:11.000 but in those moments I just held her hand tighter. 01:27:11.000 --> 01:27:16.000 These were NOT the people I was hiding from. So who was I hiding from? 01:27:16.000 --> 01:27:24.000 One day when I was driving home, loudly singing aloud to a love song and thinking about girls, I [laugh] jokingly said to myself, 01:27:24.000 --> 01:27:31.000 'You are SO gay.' [laugh] [audience laughter] 01:27:31.000 --> 01:27:44.000 Those words kept repeating in my head, "You are soooo gay, you are so gay." 01:27:44.000 --> 01:27:55.000 I remember starting to laugh and saying out loud to myself, "Yeah you ARE gay [laugh] and what is wrong with that?' 01:27:55.000 --> 01:27:59.000 I felt relieved, exhilarated and free. 01:27:59.000 --> 01:27:66.000 It was in that moment I discovered that the only person I was hiding my sexuality from ''" was me. 01:28:06.000 --> 01:28:12.000 I was the one struggling most to accept and love me for me. 01:28:12.000 --> 01:28:17.000 I was the hardest person to come out to. 01:28:17.000 --> 01:28:19.000 [audience applause] 01:28:19.000 --> 01:28:32.000 [music] 01:28:32.000 --> 01:28:35.000 Coming out to the cousin that touched me. I didn't. 01:28:35.000 --> 01:28:37.000 I cried. 01:28:37.000 --> 01:28:40.000 Mom telling me and my sister we had a lesbian aunt. 01:28:40.000 --> 01:28:42.000 We cried. 01:28:42.000 --> 01:28:47.000 Coming out to the church elder. 'Let's put you into therapy.' I went. 01:28:47.000 --> 01:28:48.000 I cried. 01:28:48.000 --> 01:28:54.000 Coming out to my best friend. 'It's what you didn't say. It's okay.' 01:28:54.000 --> 01:28:56.000 I cried. 01:28:56.000 --> 01:28:60.000 Coming out to my lesbian aunt. 'Okay.' 01:29:00.000 --> 01:29:01.000 I cried. 01:29:01.000 --> 01:29:06.000 Coming out to my straight aunt. 'You're too militant.' 01:29:06.000 --> 01:29:08.000 She cried. 01:29:08.000 --> 01:29:14.000 Coming out to my Mom. A little back-story: 'You want to meet a guy from Portland?' asks a brand new stranger friend. 01:29:14.000 --> 01:29:22.000 'Sure,' I say. I got drunk and performed my best Madonna impersonation of Like a Virgin from the Blonde Ambition tour on the bed. 01:29:22.000 --> 01:29:26.000 He wasn't impressed. [audience laughter] 01:29:26.000 --> 01:29:28.000 I cried. 01:29:28.000 --> 01:29:32.000 Called my Mom to tell her I fucked up and that I am gay. 01:29:32.000 --> 01:29:34.000 She cried in Indiana. 01:29:34.000 --> 01:29:40.000 Coming out to my Grandma. I didn't. The church grapevine took care of this for me, through my best friend's mom. 01:29:40.000 --> 01:29:43.000 I cried as I drove home to Southern Oregon, drunk. 01:29:43.000 --> 01:29:45.000 She cried. 01:29:45.000 --> 01:29:50.000 Coming out to my Grandpa. 'So be it.' I miss him. 01:29:50.000 --> 01:29:52.000 No one cried. 01:29:52.000 --> 01:29:58.000 Coming out to the bio dad. I didn't. The bio half-sister's boyfriend took care of this one for me. 01:29:58.000 --> 01:29:62.000 No more contact. Good-bye, bio brothers. 01:30:02.000 --> 01:30:04.000 I cried. 01:30:04.000 --> 01:30:10.000 Coming out to my Dad ''" my adoptive Dad. 'Dad, I'm gay.' He replied, 'Okay.' [laugh] 01:30:10.000 --> 01:30:18.000 We were drunk, sitting on the couch in Indiana. No crying' he's actually pretty cool. [audience laughter] 01:30:18.000 --> 01:30:23.000 Coming out to my sister. I didn't. She already knew. Although she did freak out when I told her 01:30:23.000 --> 01:30:27.000 I slept with a guy in the guest bedroom in Indiana. [audience laughter] 01:30:27.000 --> 01:30:29.000 We laughed. 01:30:29.000 --> 01:30:47.000 [music] 01:30:47.000 --> 01:30:52.000 So it's sometime early in 2000 and it's snowing in Salt Lake City, Utah. 01:30:52.000 --> 01:30:58.000 Tracy and I are grad school friends and she has picked me up so we can go work on a research project. 01:30:58.000 --> 01:30:64.000 We're chatting in the car about who knows what... 01:31:04.000 --> 01:31:07.000 and the windows, windows are all frosty from the cold. 01:31:07.000 --> 01:31:14.000 And she says something about us 'straight women'. I don't even remember what the comment was, I just remember thinking: 01:31:14.000 --> 01:31:20.000 'Should I correct her? Does it matter that I identify as bisexual?' 01:31:20.000 --> 01:31:26.000 I'm in a committed, heterosexual relationship and I constantly benefit from heterosexual privilege. 01:31:26.000 --> 01:31:30.000 Though living in Utah has certainly heightened my awareness of marital privilege. 01:31:30.000 --> 01:31:38.000 My sexual identity is complicated. It's confusing. Yet I'm always already perceived as straight. 01:31:38.000 --> 01:31:43.000 I stop her mid-sentence and hedge in that way I've read is common in women's discourse. 01:31:43.000 --> 01:31:51.000 'So, uh, this is going to seem weird because I know I am perceived as straight but I identify as bisexual.' 01:31:51.000 --> 01:31:60.000 And, only to myself, I said, 'So that's what 'coming out' feels like.' It was the exhalation of a deep breath. 01:32:00.000 --> 01:32:07.000 It was the lifting of a heavy curtain. Just having Tracy know made it visible, palpable. 01:32:07.000 --> 01:32:15.000 She may have been the only person in Utah, besides Jackson, who knew. Unless others had paid attention to those off-hand comments I 01:32:15.000 --> 01:32:20.000 made about Salma Hayek or knew that I loved watching the L-Word. [audience laughter] 01:32:20.000 --> 01:32:25.000 I had been in love with a woman in the past, and attracted to many others. 01:32:25.000 --> 01:32:32.000 I am in love with a cisgendered, allosexual, straight-identified man I met in the fall of 1995. 01:32:32.000 --> 01:32:38.000 Heterosexual privilege is acute to me because of the way in which it has been present in my life. 01:32:38.000 --> 01:32:46.000 Perceptions of bisexuality and a loving, supportive community of friends shielded me from anti-lesbian sentiment, homophobia, 01:32:46.000 --> 01:32:51.000 and straight supremacy when I was with women. 01:32:51.000 --> 01:32:56.000 My appearance also helps me pass, except for the leg and armpit hair. 01:32:56.000 --> 01:32:62.000 My students in Utah couldn't decide if I was a lesbian or European. [audience laughter] 01:33:02.000 --> 01:33:08.000 In the fall of 2008, my partner of 18 years and I married. Because we could. 01:33:08.000 --> 01:33:15.000 Had he been the she I loved before I met him and had she loved me as he does, we would've had to wait that long. 01:33:15.000 --> 01:33:24.000 When he proposed to me late in 2000, shortly after I 'came out' to Tracy, I said I wanted to wait for federal marriage equality to get married. 01:33:24.000 --> 01:33:32.000 I never thought it would be so long of a wait. And I certainly never thought the feds ''" and the state of Utah, 01:33:32.000 --> 01:33:36.000 for Christ's sake ''" would get there before Oregon. 01:33:36.000 --> 01:33:42.000 Waiting did two things. It energized my activism as a lobbyist for marriage equality. 01:33:42.000 --> 01:33:47.000 From signature gathering and fundraising to having 13 years of conversations with people about 01:33:47.000 --> 01:33:54.000 'Why we're domestic partners.' I found places to stand on the movement for the LGBTQ justice and equality. 01:33:54.000 --> 01:33:61.000 And it helped me connect ''" on an emotional, personal level ''" with the injustice of a system which would 01:34:01.000 --> 01:34:07.000 deny marriage to gay and lesbian couples. I don't think it's morally wrong for people who are heterosexual to have been 01:34:07.000 --> 01:34:13.000 married under straight supremacist marriage laws. I just know it would've been morally wrong for me to do so. 01:34:13.000 --> 01:34:14.000 [audience applause] 01:34:14.000 --> 01:34:28.000 [music] 01:34:28.000 --> 01:34:33.000 I've never been the conventional masculine kind of guy''"from my tod- toddler years all the way to adulthood. 01:34:33.000 --> 01:34:41.000 My parents divorced when I was two and until she remarried when I was five, it was mostly Mom and me during my formative years. 01:34:41.000 --> 01:34:50.000 Dad 2500 miles away in Tennessee. To this day, she is still one of my heroes, and I identify with women role models more often than men. 01:34:50.000 --> 01:34:54.000 It was in the second grade that I suddenly became 'the girly boy'. 01:34:54.000 --> 01:34:60.000 I was perplexed when my class of forty-five started avoiding me- treating me differently. 01:35:00.000 --> 01:35:07.000 There was a specific group of kids who ran the show, and the words I started hearing daily were 'girly boy', 'weirdo', and 'gross'. 01:35:07.000 --> 01:35:15.000 The ring leader of this group was named Jessie. And no matter how many times I tried to be her friend, Jessie wouldn't accept, 01:35:15.000 --> 01:35:21.000 and would continuously make scenes to ensure that I was left out, and that the class followed suit. 01:35:21.000 --> 01:35:28.000 The most vivid day in my memory was a sunny afternoon when I attempted yet again to join my 'friends' to play wall ball. 01:35:28.000 --> 01:35:34.000 My requests to play were ignored as if I wasn't there, other than the looks of disgust on the bullies' faces. 01:35:34.000 --> 01:35:42.000 I sighed, dejected, and decided that I didn't feel like playing after all, laying down in the shade of a tree. 01:35:42.000 --> 01:35:50.000 Jessie came down and looked at me, 'Ewww! Why are you laying like that? It's just like a girl does.', she said. 01:35:50.000 --> 01:35:57.000 'Don't you get it? It isn't right how girly you are, it's just weird and gross; that's why nobody likes you. 01:35:57.000 --> 01:35:62.000 Why don't you just do us all a favor and just leave us alone and stop trying to be our friend?' 01:36:02.000 --> 01:36:12.000 I couldn't say anything. As Jessie walked back and the- to the now sniggering group, all I could do was sit under that tree, and feel horrible. 01:36:12.000 --> 01:36:16.000 Mom moved me to another school because the bullying had gotten so bad. 01:36:16.000 --> 01:36:20.000 I had also become one of the more obese students in my class. 01:36:20.000 --> 01:36:26.000 Although I had new friends at my school, I was constantly afraid that I was, that what was perceived as my girlishness 01:36:26.000 --> 01:36:33.000 would haunt me again. I became aware of something else that was different about me as third grade progressed. 01:36:33.000 --> 01:36:41.000 I never saw my first crush coming. Rather than noticing girls, I was really beginning to notice boys, and one boy in particular. 01:36:41.000 --> 01:36:49.000 His name was Jaysen. I couldn't understand why I stared at him in class and at recess, why I couldn't stop thinking about him. 01:36:49.000 --> 01:36:56.000 And I finally learned what the word 'gay' meant, and, of course, the definition given by my friends was less-than-positive. 01:36:56.000 --> 01:36:61.000 It also was included with the qualifier of being 'girly' to define a guy as gay. 01:37:01.000 --> 01:37:08.000 I suddenly understood both my feelings for Jayden and why Jessie and the rest of my class that year hated, that year before hated me. 01:37:08.000 --> 01:37:15.000 'What is wrong with me?' I asked. I felt hot guilt and shame licking my insides as I wondered what would happen should my 01:37:15.000 --> 01:37:20.000 family or new friends find out. I thought I already knew the answer. 01:37:20.000 --> 01:37:27.000 With the twisted knot of my stomach, I told myself that as long as I lived, not one soul would learn about my being gay because I 01:37:27.000 --> 01:37:31.000 couldn't afford to lose anyone else. 01:37:31.000 --> 01:37:35.000 The proceeding years were wrought with a severe depression that I simply couldn't shake. 01:37:35.000 --> 01:37:41.000 I had god-awful anxiety as well, and could never seem to get myself to calm down and enjoy my elementary years. 01:37:41.000 --> 01:37:49.000 I was constantly afraid that people would find out my secret. And it got to the extent that I really hated who I was, 01:37:49.000 --> 01:37:57.000 and that I couldn't change it. I started considering suicide. During one of the worst nights of my life, I couldn't sleep. 01:37:57.000 --> 01:37:66.000 I walked into the kitchen, eyes on the knife that was on the counter. I picked it up and pointed it at my abdomen, holding it ready to strike. 01:38:06.000 --> 01:38:12.000 Despite my inner want and need for the pain to end, I couldn't bring myself to cause the physical pain, to actually die. 01:38:12.000 --> 01:38:22.000 With a clatter, I dropped the knife and half walked, half ran to my room ready to cry. I was only 10 years old. 01:38:22.000 --> 01:38:26.000 My depression continued through the hormone-saturated hell hole that we all know as middle school, 01:38:26.000 --> 01:38:33.000 and my secret never got out. I tried changing my attraction, thinking that if I 'give it a shot' dating my female friends, 01:38:33.000 --> 01:38:39.000 that it would be successful. And as I look back, I can only smile at the irony of the situation. 01:38:39.000 --> 01:38:46.000 My 'girlfriends' during middle school consisted of a friend who moved away and who I conveniently asked out on her last day 01:38:46.000 --> 01:38:54.000 to be my email girlfriend, yeah, that didn't last very long, and another who lasted a whole 3 hours. 01:38:54.000 --> 01:38:60.000 Sounds like middle school doesn't it? [audience laughter] I could barely muster only mildly awkward hugs with my 'girlfriends', 01:39:00.000 --> 01:39:05.000 let alone cuddle with them, and god forbid, KISS them like they had hoped. 01:39:05.000 --> 01:39:12.000 High school came 'round quickly, and in my first year I began to finally process the feelings I spent so long holding down. 01:39:12.000 --> 01:39:19.000 After one more attempt at a girlfriend, who is now my best friend and we can only giggle at the fact that we actually 'dated'. 01:39:19.000 --> 01:39:27.000 I decided that I would be done with trying to force myself to like women. I noticed 'out' LGB- identifying individuals in my school, 01:39:27.000 --> 01:39:34.000 and I noticed that they hadn't lost all of their loved ones and seemed completely happy. The world hadn't ended. 01:39:34.000 --> 01:39:39.000 My suicidal thoughts were still there, but by then I had built some self- acceptance and worth. 01:39:39.000 --> 01:39:47.000 I told myself that I was gay, silently expressing, 'Oh he's cute.', when I felt my eyes following someone particularly good looking. 01:39:47.000 --> 01:39:51.000 I was still terrified to tell anyone, however. 01:39:51.000 --> 01:39:55.000 It was near the end of my sophomore year that I told the first person. 01:39:55.000 --> 01:39:59.000 Tasha, who was already out as bisexual, and I knew that she was safe. 01:39:59.000 --> 01:39:65.000 All I could muster, excuse me, all I could muster was texting her the words with trembling hands. 01:40:05.000 --> 01:40:09.000 She accepted me and understood my fear about telling every- everyone else. 01:40:09.000 --> 01:40:16.000 And by my junior year I started to come into my own-- realizing my leadership potential, and successfully running for student body 01:40:16.000 --> 01:40:22.000 vice president. This was also the year that I had my first boyfriend, and my first kiss. 01:40:22.000 --> 01:40:26.000 On Mother's Day, no less, I took Alex on a date to see the first new Star Trek. 01:40:26.000 --> 01:40:33.000 In a whirlwind of the moment, I outed myself to strangers for the first time when Alex asked me, asked me out and kissed me 01:40:33.000 --> 01:40:39.000 during the credits afterward. It felt right for the first time ever in my life to be dating somebody-- 01:40:39.000 --> 01:40:46.000 although scary still to deal with the stares of being a visibly gay, biracial couple for the first time. 01:40:46.000 --> 01:40:51.000 Now that I had a boyfriend, I decided to come out to my closest friends and family. 01:40:51.000 --> 01:40:59.000 Although some of them were surprised, most had previously suspected, and to my utmost relief they all accepted me with open arms. 01:40:59.000 --> 01:40:70.000 That's right, including my dad and step-dad or as my mom likes to put it, her 'first and second Catholic husbands.' [audience laughter] 01:41:10.000 --> 01:41:17.000 All of my fears leading up to then had been proven wrong. It felt eerie to include my loved ones in on something that was so private, 01:41:17.000 --> 01:41:27.000 but liberating. I truly loved who I was for the first time. While Alex and I ultimately didn't work out, my life didn't slow down. 01:41:27.000 --> 01:41:33.000 At the beginning of senior year it was my turn to run for president, and I was at a loss at what to write my speech about. 01:41:33.000 --> 01:41:42.000 I read a book based on a true story about a closeted star high-school quarterback who was for- forcefully outed into the world, 01:41:42.000 --> 01:41:50.000 and how he navigated the situation. I was inspired and decided that I was going to do something fucking crazy. [audience laughter] 01:41:50.000 --> 01:41:54.000 And I was going to take coming out into my own hands. 01:41:54.000 --> 01:41:58.000 On the Election Day I walked onto that stage, hands and voice trembling. 01:41:58.000 --> 01:41:64.000 And I faced my entire high school to come out to the auditorium in my election speech. 01:42:04.000 --> 01:42:09.000 I was very surprised to be met with a standing ovation from 200 people in the room. 01:42:09.000 --> 01:42:17.000 Not only was I met with the utmost enthusiasm and support of my community, but I won the election that day. [audience laughter] 01:42:17.000 --> 01:42:25.000 Five and a half years have passed since, and I still consider it to be the single most terrifying, yet most liberating and brilliant thing I could have 01:42:25.000 --> 01:42:33.000 done for myself. I have been able to tackle college, have it fully paid for and now a career that means something to me. 01:42:33.000 --> 01:42:42.000 And with the confidence that whatever life has to throw at me, I can handle it. [audience applause] 01:42:42.000 --> 01:42:50.000 So these stories that you've heard tonight are ultimately about courage, compassion, and connection. 01:42:50.000 --> 01:42:67.000 They are about resilience, authenticity, fear, curiosity, and as our friend Hank says, 'Love. Love IS more important than anything.' 01:43:07.000 --> 01:43:14.000 All of these individuals and countless more share a common thread here tonight, that of having been connected at one point in time to 01:43:14.000 --> 01:43:20.000 Western Oregon University. And hopefully this empowers more individuals, 01:43:20.000 --> 01:43:24.000 whatever your age or status, to share your story with someone. 01:43:24.000 --> 01:43:35.000 Whether you identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Pan, Queer, Questioning, Trans, CIS, Asexual, or yes, 01:43:35.000 --> 01:43:41.000 I know among you there are many Allies to one or more of these identities. 01:43:41.000 --> 01:43:48.000 And we know that when we share our stories we open hearts and minds and folks move towards compassion and understanding 01:43:48.000 --> 01:43:54.000 and love. And I love all of you for coming out tonight. [laugh] 01:43:54.000 --> 01:43:60.000 Please join me as the cast of the Coming Out Monologues moves forward. 01:44:00.000 --> 01:44:05.000 Please join me in thanking the cast uh, for their performances tonight. 01:44:05.000 --> 01:44:09.000 [audience applause]