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LGBT community celebrates National Coming Out Week

Celebrating the National Coming Out Week’s “Coming Out of the Closet” day, a panel of four gay and lesbian activists spoke to a room of about 20 students about embracing their sexual identity as well as their religious, gender and race-based identities in the University Student Union Ballroom A Tuesday.

The speakers included Jasmyne Cannick, Tom Crowe, Vianey Ramirez and Marshall Wong, all of whom were from various careers, including a journalist, social worker, L.A. County public defender and a L.A. County Human Relations Commissioner.

The panel discussion was interrupted 30 minutes into the event because of a fire drill, when attendants were encouraged to join with others at the panel outside the USU to discuss topics brought up during the event.

All four of the speakers spoke about reconciling their religious beliefs with their identity.

“It wasn’t what they were expecting,” Cannick said, referring to her Jehovah’s Witness background. “They thought it was a phase, but here I am, turning 30, and I’m still gay.”

Reiterating that point later, Ramirez noted how her Catholic family was unsupportive of her coming out.

“My mother is still in denial,” Ramirez said. “Like Jasmyne said earlier, it’s ten years later and I’m still a ‘lesbiana’.”

Other topics brought up at the panel included being on the “down low,” politicians who are secretly gay but don’t support legislative reform for LGBT people, race as a factor in identity, how and when each panelist came out and the issues affecting a younger generation of people who are comfortable with their sexual identity.

“If I left it up to my family to educate themselves about being gay, they would think that all of us are pedophiles or wear baggy clothes,” Cannick said, referring to the image of lesbians in the media.

Later in the panel discussion, Wong told the story of two gay teenagers who were struggling with lack of support from their communities about LGBT issues.

Wong spoke about a 15-year-old teenager in Arcadia named Tina who was the only gay member of her Gay/Straight Alliance group. The straight members of the group wanted to be supporters instead of leaders, making organizing events difficult. So, to commemorate the violence incurred by LGBT people, Tina brought a sign to her classes with the picture of several LGBT people who have incurred violence because of their sexual identity, according to Wong.

“We should all use our stories to inspire” as did these teenagers, Wong said.

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