May 31, 2018
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
Mount Saint Mary College recently hosted the Exploring Identity panel, featuring a dozen members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Mount Saint Mary College’s recent 12-member panel talk, “Exploring Identity,” featured students, staff, and community members who identify across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum discussing the ways that their identities have shaped their lives.
The event was spearheaded by the college’s Office for Advocacy, Prevention, and Intervention Programs.
“The panel showcased the variety of ways that LGBT people live in the world,” said Roger May, assistant director of Campus Ministry and a member of the panel. May identifies as a gay man.
Stereotypes on television or in films might “make people think that there’s only one type of gay person or transgender person, and it’s a very specific, very narrow vision,” he explained.
Gina Evers is director of the Mount’s Writing Center and was also a member of the panel. She said her journey of self-acceptance was difficult and she did not fully come to terms with being a lesbian until she was nearly 20 years old.
“Everyone experiences their own LGBTQIA+ identities differently, and I appreciated hearing these experiences from other panelists who shared how religious and cultural contexts overlap with their queer identities,” she said. “In particular, the candor and clarity of the conversation around how racism affects LGBTQIA+ experiences of people of color was important for all of us to hear.”
May says that he hopes those who attended took note of the vast range of occupations, interests, and accomplishments of the individuals on the panel.
“Students can look at that and erase those boundaries of what an LGBT person can do or can’t do, or can experience, or a field they can work in.”
Most of the panelists noted that coming out as a member of the LGBTQA+ community is rarely a one-time event. “Daily, you’re making that decision based on who you’re around,” he explained, adding, “I found a supportive community at the Mount.”
May gave some simple advice to the audience: “Let all the details work themselves out. Worry about being who you are,” he said.
Evers told students that at the Mount, “they’re not alone. There are many people on this campus who are willing to listen and validate what it is they’re experiencing. The search for truth is the core Dominican value, and searching to articulate the truth about yourself is a beautiful thing to do.”
She added that for members of the audience who don’t occupy LGBTQIA+ identities, she hopes that “they left the discussion with increased insight and understanding about what it is to greet the world as an LGBTQA+ person. For members of the audience who do identify as LGBTQIA+, I hope they came away feeling validated, in community, and empowered to speak their own narratives.”