“I can say ‘I’m gay’ so easily now, but for the majority of my life those words held me hostage,” one performer said.
Public Policy junior Lena Dreves recently started approaching student groups and organizations for support to create a LGBTQ Monologues event happen, which was ultimately co-sponsored by the Spectrum Center and LGBT+ Michigan. Dreves wanted to bring to light the experiences of members of this community, and saw this come to fruition at the first annual event Wednesday night.
LGBTQ Monologues consisted of 11 student speakers detailing their experiences as members of the community and the different struggles they have faced. Dreves emphasized people need an outlet to express the range of emotions associated with coming out.
“Not only is this event beneficial for the people sharing, but for the people hearing, I think it really puts a face to the LGBT community,” Dreves said. “I think a lot of times we hear about statistics and everything’s institutionalized and political, especially around this topic today. I think by hearing stories, when people are reading these statistics they’re going to remember a face and a story.”
Speakers talked about the different intricacies associated with coming out, focusing on topics such as parental dynamics, acceptance and reconciling identity with faith. LSA senior Michael Miller-Perusse, who was a co-chair of the event and is the community outreach chair for LGBT+ Michigan, mentioned the importance of attending monologue events and holding supportive events for community members.
“We thought Coming Out Week would be a great time to do this,” Miller-Perusse said, referring to the week of Oct. 4 to Oct. 11. “I think it’s really beneficial for students to hear different people in their community with different backgrounds and life experiences and really listen to their story, as well as attend events held by people from communities I’m not a part of and learn more about their experiences.”
Public Policy junior Daniel Greene spoke about coming out and dealing with unexpected backlash after a Michigan Daily article about his experience as a gay man in Greek life ran the same day. He changed his monologue after the article was released.
“Almost all of the responses have been positive feedback, but there are a few people who have made my day a little rough, to say the least,” Greene said. “I think it’s important for me to react in a way not that I’m giving a spotlight to the haters but so I can reflect as a person. This is a wonderful event. It gives me perspective because even though I’ve had a hard day and it’s sometimes hard to create change, hearing the stories of everyone else in the room and understanding their perspectives makes it seem a little better.”
Greene continued, stating though most of the attendees of the event belonged to the community, it was important for them to create a sense of solidarity and support among the community members.
“Events like this can be productive when the community buys into it,” Greene said. “If you look around the room, I would say that this is mostly the LGBTQIA+ community, but what’s important to understand is that if you’re going to create change on campus the community itself needs to be powerful and positive, and able to rely on each other internally before they can go about opening the doors and creating broader change across campus. It’s building the momentum to allow more people to come in and help people become more willing to share their stories. I think tonight’s an investment in a long-term desire to make a change.”
LSA sophomore Dominique Witten reflected on the experience and how it could inspire other University students to feel more comfortable with their identities.
“I thought it was really cool to hear everyone’s unique stories, and it helped me have a better understanding of my friends and other people on campus,” Witten said. “I think that people who are struggling to come out can really benefit from this event, because it helps reaffirm that it’s not just them, and that there are so many people who have gotten through this as well.”