Originally published April 15, 2015.
Silencing the Hate week has made a big impact on the Millersville student body. One of the many events to attend was the LGBT People of Color panel that happened April 13 at 7 p.m. in SMC 18.
This panel featured six speakers, all of whom are people of color in the LGBT community. The panel consisted of Heidi Notario, Training and Technical Assistant Manager at the National Latin@ Network; Corey Scott Smith, Assistant Chief Counsel at the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission; Erin Duran, Director of LGBTQA Advocacy & Education at Gettysburg College; Shaashawn Dial-Snowden, Diversity Trainer and Board Member of the Central PA LGBT Center; Cierra McGee, an Executive Board Member of Millersville’s Black Student Union and Corissa Brown, the Public Relations Manager of Millersville’s Gender & Sexuality Alliance.
Shaq Glover, a senior at Millersville, was the director of this panel. The group offered many different perspectives on what their sexuality means to them, and shared insight on how their life came to be. The first question of the night related to coming out, and their perceptions on sexuality.
“I believe sexuality is fluid,” said Brown.
“I do not put myself into a box,” said McGee of her coming out process. “I like who I like; I love who I love. I just go with the flow; it is what it is,”
“My coming out experience was one of self-realization,” Smith said, noting that his family knew that he was gay before he even did. When he dated girls, he said he felt “this is the role I’m supposed to play,” but it didn’t resonate with him. For Notario, it was also one of self realization.
Afterwards, family was brought up, and the panelists talked of their experiences with their families. “My family has been really supportive, but I respect the fight,” McGee said.
Dial-Snowden talked about how when she came out, her mother sent her a 24-page letter saying all the things wrong with her coming out. It talked of how she was throwing away the privilege that she was given. She counteracted this by telling the audience that “I’m flawed, fabulous and creative,” mentioning that if her parents didn’t want to be part of her experience, they didn’t have to be. Her mom turned around and started being accepting, while her father did not. “That’s his truth, not mine,” Dial-Snowden said, mentioning that she had spent a lot more time with her chosen family than her actual family.
“I was so afraid, I didn’t know what would happen,” Duran said of coming out to his family. After he told his mom, he said they didn’t talk for a year. “I have to believe things get better… I’m happy to be five years into my new life,” he said.
“Coming out is a process that changes over time,” Notario said. “Parents also have to come out… What’s behind hesitation is typically fear,” she said, noting that parents are the ones to tell other people about their children’s sexualities, including who they’re seeing, married to, etc. “There’s always a dose of pain.”
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violent Programs, 89 percent of all anti-LGBTQ homicides were committed towards people of color. Glover then asked the panelists about their experience with safety.
“I’ve been blessed with physical safety, but not professional safety,” said Dial-Snowden. “I’ve always been out; long story short, it’s gotten me fired twice. I wouldn’t change being out,” she said, mentioning that it’s a good idea to have a lawyer to speak with at all times.
Duran brought up a story about a threat he had gotten; it was a rather nasty threat, saying that someone would do the same thing to him that had been done to Matthew Shepard. He also mentioned getting anonymous, empty threats and harassment while transitioning. But soon he decided, “I am going to live my life, and I’m going to love it.”
“I am not going to hide who I am,” Smith said about his personal safety. He mentioned more than once that he was blessed with an easy coming out process. As a lawyer, he advised the audience members to always look into the companies they’re applying for. “Sacrificing who you are… that’s a big thing,” he said. “No job is worth who you are.”
The panelists were then asked what they would say to a 21-year-old them.
“Calm down; enjoy the moment… It will all work out,” Smith said. Dial-Snowden mentioned a similar thing, telling herself that it’s time to “shake the Cosby Show.” She had grow up with it, and felt as though she had to fit into the ideals of the family, as it reminded her of her own family in a way.
Because Brown and McGee are in their twenties, the question was modified, so they could talk to their 16-year-old selves. “Surround yourself with positive people… Your company says a lot about you,” McGee said.
“Just listen to people,” Brown said, noting the importance of letting people be heard.
With that, the panel came to a close. The audience members were encouraged to speak with the panelists after the meeting. In his closing remarks, Glover, the organizer of the event, said, “change starts with the people right next to you… Events like this plant seeds for the future.”