Florida A& M’s Benjamin L. Perry building, is typically known for it’s classroom setting and lectures. However, Wednesday night, Rm. 300 was used as a safe haven for students to share intimate details of their “coming out” experience.
LGBT, which stands for the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgendered Student Pride Union, hosted a summit for all students to support and share their personal coming out stories.
With rising reported suicides within the past year related to gay and lesbian bashing, FAMU physical education major and LGBT founder, Albert Jackson, said he felt it was appropriate to hold a meeting where students can be themselves without being judged.
“There was no official group to bring us all together collectively and celebrate what we have in common and promote our lifestyle,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he wanted to create a refuge for LGBT students to feel comfortable with themselves and express their feelings.
“It’s not an easy lifestyle,” Jackson said. “I encourage everyone to hug a gay when they see one, because people get killed over this.”
Dozens were in attendance that night as students gave their own account of coming out.
Emotions were high for a FAMU student and military cadet, LaTeisha Johnson, whose name has been changed to protect her identity due to recent debates over the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, broke the ice with the first coming out story for the night.
“I came out in the seventh grade,” Johnson said. “When I told my mother I had a crush on my best friend, she thought I was crazy and she beat me. When my dad found out he beat me too.”
Anonym said she remembers being temporarily taken out of school by her parents, in hopes it would rid her of her “insanity.” Even after slowly gaining her parents acceptance, her outside family denounced her.
“What hurt me the most was when my outside family didn’t consider me as the relative with a bunch of scholarships and doing well in school, anymore,” Johnson said. “To them I was just the gay girl.”
As the night progressed, story after story began to pour out. Not all students, however, had a negative experience to share.
Jakari Turner, 21, a psychology student and Tallahassee native, said despite getting a few threats from other students, his overall coming out experience was pleasant. Turner said he used another way of coming out versus the traditional and awkward sit-down conversation.
“I decided to come out by expressing myself more fashionably and changing the way I dress,” Turner said.
Turner who also calls himself Hollywood, attended the meeting hot pink combat boots, ripped jeans and a laced shirt, something that he said makes him unique.
Turner said he is a strong advocate of self-expression and love, and sends this advice to those struggling with coming out.
“I think coming out is just a small piece of a mission that makes you uniquely you,” Turner said. “Just love yourself and eventually the rest will follow.”