Los Medanos College Allies Club and LMC faculty from the LGBTQ community celebrated “Coming Out Day,” an event that addresses LGBTQ issues and encourages community visibility. Three faculty members told their coming out stories during the event. The event also showcased Deb Cuny, a Restorative Justice Coach from Oakland who is part of the #BornPerfect Campaign whose goal is to end Conversion Therapy.
English instructor Liz Green gave a warm welcome to the audience.
“You’re not just at any National Coming Out Day,” she said. “You’re at the 30th anniversary.”
After sharing the agenda for the evening, she continued by explaining the importance of “coming out.”
“By coming out to our family and to our friends, colleagues, coworkers, we’re making our community visible, and we’re creating a sense of safety and coming out of isolation,” Green explained. “There’s all these different levels in which coming out happens and it’s a life-long process.”
Green gave way for the next speaker, English instructor Jeff Mitchell Matthews. He gave his told his coming out story after giving a brief history of his career at Los Medanos College. He has been at Los Medanos since 1992.
“For many, many years I was the only fag on campus, as I used to put it,” Mitchell Matthews said.
Matthews gave a detailed description of programs and services on campus that help students in the LGBTQ community and emphasized the new LGBTQ studies degree for transfer the college is offering.
“Our LGBTQ programs here on campus have been firmly established,” said Mitchell Matthews
Liz Green returned to read a poem she wrote about coming out as a bisexual. Then she and Library staff member Catt Wood placed a chocolate cake with candles at the front of the room and sang “Happy National Coming Out Day” to the tune of “Happy Birthday.”
The stage was turned over to the main speaker Deb Cuny. Cuny gave her coming out story. with the cake as a prop.
“With a cake and a celebration comes candles, and with candles come wishes and I have quite a few wishes I want to share tonight. And I invite you to make a wish,” Cuny said.
There were 12 wishes corresponding with 12 parts of Cuny’s coming out story. As a person who was raised in the Christian faith, her family and church was homophobic and initially could not accept her sexual orientation. Her family did everything to enforce gender roles, like making her wear hair bows when she played sports. She said that she liked dressing in her father’s clothes, had ambitions of becoming a preacher and often was found preaching with a bible to a line of stuffed animals.
As a teenager, Cuny tried to seek help from her youth group leaders.
“I turned to them and told them about my same-sex attractions,” Cuny said.
She was appalled when the people she trusted for help abandoned her. Her church rejected her, her parents refused to accept her and joined anti-gay organizations. After a downward spiral of anxiety, depression and resorting to alcohol dependence, she felt she was powerless and needed help. Again she reached out to her parents and finally things began to get better.
“It is by the grace of God that I am standing here today four years sober,” she said.
Her parents redeemed themselves and no longer partake in homophobia. Cuny said her mom changed her focus because she just couldn’t understand why her faith system didn’t align with what she knew about her daughter.
“My mom is now part of a group called the Mama Bears, and the Mama Bears focus on how to love their queer kids,” Cuny explained.
The Mama Bears go to events and offer love to queer people who need a supportive parent.
“I am finally proud to be queer and Christian,” said Cuny.
Before she ended the presentation, she addressed why she came out.
“I do it for my sanity, for my sobriety and to reclaim my power which means not hiding or apologizing for what makes me so goddamn beautiful,” she said, “and I’m beautiful.”