February 28, 2017
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
Arik Sansivero (far left), a psychology major at Mount
Saint Mary College, discusses his experience as a transgender male.
Also on the panel, left to right: Venezia Verdi, a junior media
studies/production major; Gina Evers, director of the Mount’s
Writing Center; and Pat Duffy, operations coordinator and academic
coach in the Office of Student Success. The panel was moderated by
Brianne Thompson (far right), leadership development coach at the
A panel of two Mount Saint Mary College staff members and two
students recently discussed their college experience as members of
the LGBTQA+ community, recounting their personal challenges and
The discussion was the first in the three part “The Mount Speaks
Out” diversity roundtable series, which focuses on hard-hitting
issues facing today’s college students. The second and third talks,
scheduled for March and April, will examine both politics and race
as they relate to the modern college student.
The panel consisted of Pat Duffy, operations coordinator and
academic coach in the Office of Student Success; Gina Evers,
director of the Mount’s Writing Center; Venezia Verdi, a junior
media studies/production major; and Arik Sansivero, a freshman
psychology major. It was moderated by Brianne Thompson, leadership
development coach at the Mount.
Evers said her journey of self-acceptance was a long and
tumultuous one. She did not fully come to terms with being a
lesbian, she said, until the age of 19.
“Growing up and having these feelings, I didn’t really know what
to do with them,” she explained. “There was no one in my family who
was gay and no role models for me. I thought, ‘you’re abnormal. You
shouldn’t be having these feelings for girls. You need to stop
She encouraged students to accept themselves regardless of
orientation, noting that she was much happier when she did the
Duffy echoed Evers’ sentiment. He knew he was gay from an early
age, he explained, but he assumed he would “grow out of it.” It
wasn’t until he began working on his master’s degree that he fully
embraced his identity.
“It’s the way I should have been living for years,” he said.
“But coming out is a process that needs to be self-directed and
self-actualized. It should only ever be on your terms and on your
Sansivero, a transgender male, thanked the Mount community for
“For the first time, I am completely accepted for who I am,” he
said. “Before I came to the Mount, I had nowhere that I was
completely accepted as Arik.”
Verdi, who identifies as bisexual, offered simple advice: “Don’t
think that just because someone is lesbian, gay, or bisexual that
they will act a specific way,” she said. “Everyone is different,
everyone is their own person. Get to know someone and you’ll see
that being gay is only one part of who they are.”
The Mount Speaks Out series is sponsored by the Office for
Student Success (OSS). The OSS offers proactive, student-centered
support to Mount students through academic coaching, one-on-one and
small group tutoring, supplemental academic advising, and the
Parent Partnership Program.