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Students share coming out stories on the Cut

People gather on the Cut to hear students’ coming out stories. ALLIES organized a “Coming Out at the Fence” event for National Coming Out Day last Thursday. October is LGBT History Month. (credit: Jennifer Coloma/Operations Manager) People gather on the Cut to hear students’ coming out stories. ALLIES organized a “Coming Out at the Fence” event for National Coming Out Day last Thursday. October is LGBT History Month. (credit: Jennifer Coloma/Operations Manager)

Rehana Mohammed, a graduate student in Heinz College, stood up on the Cut Thursday and told the campus the story of how she discovered she was gay and came out on the same night. Her father walked in on her kissing a friend at a sleepover.

“The next day he sent an ambassador, a.k.a. my mom, to come uncover the truth behind the situation. Had they been wrestling? Had I dropped the remote behind her and had to get it and it took a long time? Had my lips fallen on hers? Had there been some sort of situation that transpired? And this was the opportunity, right? This was the opportunity to lie. He laid it out for me. Tons of possible lies that I could just take, just use. But I was feeling tired. Didn’t get much sleep. Wink wink. And so, I just told the truth.”

Every year on National Coming Out Day, Carnegie Mellon’s ALLIES, an LGBT support group, hosts “Coming Out at the Fence.” For this event, ALLIES attempts to paint the Fence. However, in the past three years that Colin Meret, president of ALLIES, has been here, the group has been unable to take the Fence. This year was the same — Sigma Alpha Epsilon took the Fence to advertise its charity event, Donut Dash — so ALLIES hosted its event next to the Fence.

Members set up speakers and a microphone and allowed students, faculty, and staff the chance to share their coming out experiences with the Carnegie Mellon campus.

“I think it’s really helpful,” Meret said of National Coming Out Day. “I think it’s good for people who aren’t out to know that, well, there’s a whole day dedicated to this. Even if they don’t come out on that day, they still know that it means that there are people out there who are supporting, despite what might be their current vocal position.”

During the event, Gina Casalegno, dean of student affairs, shared her experience of her three-year-old son revealing that he wanted to be a ballerina “with a pink skirt and a cool pair of tights” for Halloween.

When her husband turned to her and asked, “Are we in on this together? Do we want to do this together?” Casalegno replied, “Of course we’re gonna do this together. We’re gonna let our son be a ballerina.”

She later read a book to her children about various families and how, no matter how different each family is or how far apart they are, the family is still a family and still cares about each other.

“We’re on the verge of such potential change, and we have seen it coming slowly in my lifetime, and when I think of my kids and their future, I am very hopeful,” Casalegno said.

When stories weren’t being shared, ALLIES played recordings such as “25 Celebrity Coming Out Stories That Shocked The World” by The Huffington Post.

“It’s in your face in a good way,” Vivek Nair, sophomore electrical and computer engineering major, said of the event. “It’s actually effective at those half-hour marks, where a cluster of people wait to read. It gets the message across without being a parade. It tells a story, instead of spectacle.”

Meg Evans, housefellow for Stever House and coordinator of LGBTQ resources, said that ALLIES’s main goal is “a cross between advocacy, awareness, activism and community.”

Evans also said that the number one way that LGBTs support people coming out is by “just having a community of people that is safe and is going to fully accept them for them.”

October is LGBT History Month. According to Evans, ALLIES has multiple events going on this month to promote awareness.

“Something about being gay that a lot of people think is awful is that you have to come out to everyone you meet. You know, you’re not just [gay] like straight people are just straight. And you’re straight until proven gay. And that does kinda suck, but I like to see it as an opportunity to come out in different ways every time,” Mohammed said. “I encourage people to think of coming out not only as this awful thing they build up to — which the first time it is — but the continual coming out.... Make it fun. Why not?”