Joining Intersectionality, Gender, Sexuality and Allies held an identity panel for the public to ask about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer identities on Oct. 13 in the Student Center.
JIGSAW hoped to have a “comfortable environment for those who don’t have it,” said Sarah Thompson, the organization’s secretary and treasurer.
The panel began by introducing names, gender, sexuality and preferred pronouns followed by their coming out stories.
Former JIGSAW president and WSU alumnus Ashton Niedzwiecki introduced himself as a pansexual transgender man who prefers male pronouns.
Niedzwiecki said he came out two years ago.
“I came out as trans to my close friends two years ago,” Niedzwiecki said. “Then, just a year and half ago, I came out to my family.”
Niedzwiecki admits that although his family is fairly conservative, they took his outing positively.
“They took it well and have come a long way since I’ve come out,” Niedzwiecki said. “Everybody in my family calls me Ashton. Some struggle with it, but they correct themselves and that is more than I expected from a lot of people in my family.”
Niedzwiecki cofounded FtM Detroit, an organization that is a social and support organization in the metro Detroit area for transmasculine, a term used to describe transgender people who were assigned female at birth, but identify with masculinity more than femininity.
Lilly, who wanted to be identified by her first name only and sat with the panel, began by mentioning that for her coming out was not as easy and comfortable.
“I didn’t have the greatest experience [coming out] with my mom because I didn’t come out to her,” Lilly said. “I was outed by my brother.”
This too had been as recent as only a year ago. Lilly said she had told a close friend, and her close friend told her brothers, who were close to Lilly’s brother, and he told Lilly’s mother.
“I was driving with my mom to pick him [Lilly’s brother] up from Kalamazoo where he lives, and we went out and got food and we’re sitting at the table and he’s like, ‘Isn’t there something you want to talk about?’” Lilly said. “It was actually really bad and was really scary. I got up, went to the restaurant bathroom and just sobbed.”
Lilly said she felt it was made to be more about her brother than her and felt more attacked than accepted. She said he said to her “I thought I was a better brother than that, where you could have told me yourself. How long have you known and not told me?”
Lilly connects this reaction to how most outsiders feel about others coming out.
“I feel like this generally applies to everyone who aren’t also gay, where they kind of like expect you to tell them, they expect you to come out,” Lilly said. “Like there’s this expectation and this demand as if you’re being dishonest and a liar if you don’t tell them.”
At the event, a student, who does not want to be identified, mentioned her confusion of the word queer.
English professor Simone Chess answered by saying that, “I identify as queer, and I think some of it is generational in terms of the history of the word being used as an insult, but it has been, I think, reclaimed as a word that has power. I like it because it is a big umbrella. It includes a lot of kinds of gender and sexual expression. A lot can fit under there.”
JIGSAW member Claire Hermes said, “If you’re uncomfortable, good. I want you to be, I want you to ask me questions and ask me offensive things because that’s how people learn.”