USF’s First National Coming Out Day Celebration Highlights Community Voices – The Oracle

Queer poet Sonia Guiñansaca has highlighted the importance of student organizations and select families in college to the LGBTQ community. ORACLE PHOTO/JULIA SAAD

After turning out to be undocumented and being arrested during a protest, Guiñansaca believed they could no longer shock their mother. Guiñansaca said it was difficult to find the right words to come out, despite being a writer.

“The day before, I had repeated the line over and over again, ‘Should I say it in English or Spanglish?'” Guiñansaca said. “So I stood up to grab the armrest of the bench, and I awkwardly looked away and said ‘Mami, be gay.'”

Guiñansaca shared her story at USF’s first National Coming Out Day celebration on Tuesday, hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

US Representative Kathy Castor was the first speaker and she was proud of her active role as an ally of the LGBTQ community, saying the community helped the movement by electing the first gay commissioner.

She also addressed LGBTQ youth’s disappointment with other political representatives who should be advocating for everyone’s needs.

“My message to all of you is to use this as motivation to build peace and understanding between people,” Castor said. “At the very heart of this country, this great United States of America, our basic freedoms include equality.”

Stonewall Suites Living Learning Community resident assistant Javier Pujols shared his outing experience with his family. Pujols was marked by the struggles of having to come out as queer in a religious home.

“It was usually something my mom and family couldn’t understand, coupled with the fact that I no longer believed in God,” Pujols said. “I was suddenly the devil in their eyes.”

Black Student Success Coordinator Pilar Walker also shared her coming out experience with friends and family. She said her peers bullied her because she played basketball and had mostly male friends. She shared a few words of encouragement to those who might not have shown their fear of the answer.

“I know it’s tough when it comes to friends and family, you have to tell them at your own pace,” Walker said. “Those who matter don’t care, and those who do, don’t matter!”

After being introduced by student leaders, Guiñansaca began with a poem inspired by their immigrant mother, who has now become their biggest supporter. While sharing their coming out story, the author highlights the importance of their platonic life partner, a queer Chilean artist, during their identity journey.

Guiñansaca highlighted the work of black and brown women and transgender people in the equal rights movement, pointing to the fact that white cisgender gay men are historically the ones receiving credit for making a change.

While reminiscing about their past of organizing and activism, Guiñansaca said student organizations are crucial to the queer community. They said amplifying student voices should always be a priority for faculty when promoting political change.

“The visions and strategy of young people are what make our movement possible. We see it in the work that is happening around gun control and climate justice, to health care,” Guiñansaca said.

The fact that some students in the audience do not feel safe coming out as gay to their families has been repeatedly addressed by Guiñansaca. They not only expressed how important it is to surround yourself with supportive people, but also mentioned how crucial it is to prioritize individual well-being.

The floor was then given to the students for a Q&A with the author. A student asked Guiñansaca for advice on how to stay motivated as an LGBTQ rights activist in the state of Florida. Guiñansaca told the audience that there will always be strength in numbers and value in a community.

“There are so many radical people out there,” they said. “Maybe they’re not as visible, intentionally, but they exist and they’re there. Just reach out… We need to watch out for each other.

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