Coming Out Day panel raises LGBT awareness

The National Coming Out Day panel of (from left to right) Cassie Hales, residence hall director and adviser for Wartburg Alliance, community member Allison Hales, and students Kate Huffman, Kelly Phelan, Lawrence Chan and Adam Anderson answered questions about their coming out experiences. — Emily Novotny/TRUMPET

National Coming Out Day was recognized on Wartburg’s campus last Thursday with a panel of students discussing their stories so far. The panel ranged from faculty and community members who are completely “out” to students who have only come out to certain friends or family members.

Cassie Hales, faculty adviser to Alliance, said the panel is mostly about educating the community.

“The biggest thing I want people to take away, whether that’s students or members of the community who attend, is that if you aren’t LGBT, you know someone who is, and if you are, I hope you can start to get the courage to come out or feel more comfortable with who you are.”

Students shared their stories of coming out and then opened the floor to questions from the audience.

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Hales, in response to an audience question, said that sometimes the easiest way to get more comfortable with coming out is to do it more often.

“Sometimes it’s easiest to come out to strangers, like waitresses at restaurants or people you don’t know that well. The more times you say it, sometimes that makes it easier because the first part of coming out is admitting it to yourself. Saying it out loud makes that easier to accept,” Hales said.

President of Alliance Kate Huffman said it’s really about sharing a very personal thing.

“Everyone on the panel who shares their story is opening up and really kind of bearing their souls, so we hope that helps people open up a little more if they are looking for a reason to,” Huffman said.

Hales said last year’s panel was successful and that people continue to come back because it is a good educational tool.

“It’s important for people to know that there are LGBT students on campus. Raising that awareness helps break down some barriers,” Hales said. “And I want students to know that there are people they can come talk to, myself included.”

Huffman said Alliance’s overall goal with the panel and their events is to cause a shift in attitude.

“The big thing we’re focusing on is fostering acceptance, not just tolerance, but real acceptance.”

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