LGBT organizations celebrate National Coming Out Day to educate, raise awareness

Adam Cullian has a clear memory of his 13th birthday.

He was sitting in his 7th grade classroom, watching the morning announcements. When the birthdays of the day were called out, his name came through the speakers.

“Who the hell is Adam Cullian?” one classmate asked.

Adam, a little offended, responded, “Oh, that’s me, right across the room from you.”

“Oh, no one cares about that kid. He’s a queer,” the classmate said for the entire class to hear.

The teacher did not acknowledge the kid’s statement, but it hit home with Adam.

“I went home completely emotional,” Adam said. “That may have been the first inkling or, at least a second, to make me think about my sexuality because I come home, and I’m like freaking out. This kid just called me a queer in front of the whole class. Like, am I gay? I don’t know.”

By the end of middle school, Adam knew the answer to his question, but he wouldn’t tell anyone the answer for another five years.

***

Adam sat in his dorm room bawling. He had told a few friends that he was gay, but he decided that he had waited long enough to tell his family. It was time to call his mom.

Adam’s mother was driving in her car with her mother when she answered. She couldn’t understand a word her son was saying between sobs.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Did you get kicked out of school?” she asked.

“Mom, I’m gay,” Adam said.

“Oh, that’s it? Can I call you back in five minutes?” she said. “I’m in the car with your grandma right now. We are both freaking out because we thought you got kicked out of school.”

After five years of living a lie, Adam felt like a weight was lifted off him — even if he had to wait five more minutes to talk about it.

***

Friday is National Coming Out Day. LGBT organizations across the United States will hold events encouraging people to show their true self, as well as support for the LGBT community.

On campus, PRIDE, a registered student organization, will hold a rally on the Quad at noon and a hold a panel on coming out at La Casa Cultural Latina at 7 pm.

The Ikenberry Rainbow Connection, a gay student alliance that Adam is a member of, will encourage heterosexuals to “come out” as allies of the gay community.

In addition to encouraging people to come out, the events also promote raising awareness of the issues facing the LGBT community.

Adam said ignorance and hatred are the main issues he has encountered.

“People aren’t willing to accept that gay people are born gay,” he said. “Why would you choose to put yourself in a world where you’ll get hate from people? Why would you choose to be gay if you knew that there are people who literally will hate you?”

One thing that has helped Adam has been the emergence of homosexuality in pop culture. Adam said “Glee” has helped his father, whom he described as a conservative Catholic, become more accepting of the homosexual community.

Adam came out to his family within a few days of Santana Lopez coming out on “Glee,” a connection which Adam’s dad immediately noticed.

“I’m like, ‘Of course, he would make that connection,’” Adam said. “Honestly, subconsciously, it might have been. Santana Lopez is one of my favorite characters, so that probably subconsciously gave me the little push to come out.”

Adam said his entire family has been accepting of his sexual orientation, though he knows that’s not the case everywhere. While Friday is a national coming out holiday, Adam said it’s important for people to come out when they’re ready.

“You don’t want to put yourself in a bad position to be on the receiving end of abuse or any kind of hurt that may come to you,” he said. “If you don’t feel comfortable coming out to someone because you fear it might turn bad, then it’s probably not the greatest time to come out.”

***

Adam said National Coming Out Day can help society, not just the individual coming out.

Although he described himself as the “gayest little kid” growing up, playing with Barbies and favoring the Pink Power Ranger, Adam knows that not all little boys who like Barbie or the color pink are gay.

“If people come out on National Coming Out Day (who) don’t fit that cookie-cutter stereotype, that helps in educating people to break that stereotype that every gay person is covered in pink, wearing a feather boa all the time, (and) prancing around with a high-pitched voice,” he said. “If they see people coming out, who are in the sciences or macho, muscular, masculine men, I think that can break down walls as well.”

Johnathan can be reached at [email protected] and @jhett93.