Leibee: Take time to listen to people’s coming out story

Katrina Leibee

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. Names have been changed in this article to protect the identity of our source.

The Lory Student Center is home to all the Student Diversity Programs and Services offices, one of which being the Pride Resource Center. A large part of the Pride Resource Center is a group called Visible Voices, which allows students of the LGBTQ community to share their stories and educate others on misunderstood issues regarding the queer community.

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Every student should take the opportunity to talk and learn more about diversity on campus.  It allows us to view not only our campus, but our surrounding community from a perspective that is not our own.

While some people may have religious or political affiliations that do not support these identities, listening to someone’s coming out story reminds us that no matter our beliefs, we are all people before we are labeled with an identity, and everyone deserves to be heard.

A representative from Visible Voices talked to a few honors students this past week and shared their coming out story. They also discussed what it means to be a part of Visible Voices and what it is like to be a part of Pride on campus.

Anyone can request a panel from Visible Voices on their website, where representatives will share their personal stories and answer questions.

I asked the representative from Visible Voices who we will refer to as *Alex, a student at Colorado State University who wishes to remain anonymous, to share a little bit of their story with students of CSU.

“My mother told me she felt like her daughter had died,” Alex said about first telling their parents that they identified as non-binary. “It was a really dark time for my family.”

For some students, coming to college means finally having a place where their identities are accepted, and they are given the resources to explore and embrace who they are. For Alex, CSU gave them a place to find themselves and create their identity.

“When I got into college, I found an amazing community in the Pride Resource Center that let me explore how I wanted to look,” Alex said. “I also got saved at the end of my Freshman year. I became a Christian, but there were many authority figures in the church that still believed that I was not by God’s design, and it in some ways forced me to go back in the closet.”

“The best way I can describe my life is that I live my life in a gray area. I am out, but I am not out. I have found a lot of joy there, in that gray area.”-Alex 

When representatives from diversity groups on campus reach out to other students and organizations, it helps connect everybody. Hearing their stories allows students to see beyond a rainbow flag or an office in the LSC, and see real people who have overcome adversity.

“The best way I can describe my life is that I live my life in a gray area. I am out, but I am not out. I have found a lot of joy there, in that gray area. I’ve been given the freedom to be whoever I want to be, without having to conform to either end, neither black nor white.”

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I asked Alex why it is important for students to hear stories like these? To which they responded, “[T]here are queer people on this campus who don’t know that they’re not alone. Also, we always say, ‘I’m proud to be a CSU Ram,’ but if you aren’t willing to know the stories, and the struggles and the lives of people who are different from you, then you can’t call yourself a part of that community.”

Sometimes, it can feel like the SDPS offices are just rooms in the LSC, but they are full of unique communities of people with different experiences and different stories. 

Alex said that hearing coming out stories, “opens up the door to imagine other people’s complexly.”

I asked Alex the one thing they want students to know about the LGBTQ community, to which they answered, “we’re just people.” 

Katrina Leibee can be reached at letters@collegian.com or Twitter @KatrinaLeibee.