Against the backdrop of a campus where a safe space may be increasingly under question, nearly a hundred Cornell students met in open dialogue about sexuality on National Coming Out Day.
The event, called Coming out Across Cultures, was organized by Black Students United and Haven, Cornell’s LGBTQ Student Union. The groups came together to organize the event to create a space where students from an array of diverse backgrounds could speak in a neutral environment about sexuality and coming out.
During the event, students broke out into multiple groups and discussed their own personal stories in small seminar circles.
For Lavanya Aprameya ’19, this event was especially important in the context of the racially charged issues that have occurred on the Cornell campus in past weeks.
“Given everything that has been happening recently, we can tell that this campus is not as safe a space as it should be for everyone,” Aprameya said. “Especially for people that hold multiple different identities that have been challenged recently.”
While students brainstormed some tangible ways that people can be more helpful and supportive to friends who might be balancing their queer identities with other identities, the themes of intersectionality and inclusivity were frequently referenced.
“Part of the motivation for this event was to realize that intersectionality is something that we need to be talking about and we need to be thinking about all of this in an intersectional sense,” Aprameya said. “There are organizations that are working together and are there to support them [LGBTQ students].”
The groups discussed the various factors that can influence a person’s ability to come out, such as race, religion or political climate. Students then addressed what could be done to make people who might not be able to come out feel more supported and included.
Many students spoke from personal experience, and most agreed that dialogue was one of the most helpful ways to breed inclusivity. Some stated that personal connections with other members of the LGBTQ community allowed them to fully recognize and accept their own sexual identities.
Xenia Ludtseva ’18 explained that she came to the event to share her experience of growing up and eventually coming out as gay in Russia.
“Coming out is not a singular thing,” Ludtseva said. “There are a lot of complications that come with gender expression, family background, ethnicity and class that need to be taken into consideration.”
Highlighting intersectionality again, many students, including Ludtseva, mentioned that sexual identity should not be viewed as the only way to identify individuals because there are so many other factors that make us human.
Ludtseva said that she enjoyed the event because the personal discourse allowed her to listen to other individuals’ unique experiences, such as one student who spoke about being the only queer individual in an all-Catholic school.
From the event, she said she came to realize that every culture has its own vocabulary for how to articulate queerness.
“This was really valuable because you learn that there is no single narrative, and having more than one narrative is always a very good thing,” Ludtseva said. “There is no one set of rules for how to be gay, therefore you just feel like a freer person.”