Mount kicks off diversity series with LGBTQA+ panel

February 28, 2017

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 Mount. 


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 successes.

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 that.’”

She encouraged students to accept themselves regardless of orientation, noting that she was much happier when she did the same.

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 timeline.”

Sansivero, a transgender male, thanked the Mount community for embracing him.

“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.