Coming out to end stigmas on LGBTQ

Comedian Sabrina Jalees promotes honest disclosure of sexual orientation and gender identity in Humber’s North campus concourse on Oct. 9.
Photo by: Evan Millar Comedian Sabrina Jalees promotes honest disclosure of sexual orientation and gender identity in Humber’s North campus concourse on Oct. 9. Photo by: Evan Millar

Evan Millar 
Life Reporter

Sometimes, the right thing is the most difficult thing to do.

“I had a hard time coping with it when I was younger, but over the past couple of years I’ve begun to accept it,” said Zoe Pigeon, 18, a first-year Food and Nutrition Management student.

For Pigeon, coming out as bisexual at the same time as one of her close friends was instrumental in laying a more authentic foundation to her life.

“We both supported each other and our group of friends as a whole was also really supportive,” she said. “They didn’t judge us at all, they were all for it.”

Oct. 11 marks the anniversary of National Coming Out Day, an event first observed 26 years ago on another anniversary: 1979’s National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

To honour the day, Humber’s Gender and Sexual Diversity committee brought comedian Sabrina Jalees to Humber’s North campus for an Oct. 9 talk on diversity.

Best known for her regular appearances on MuchMusic’s Video on Trial, Jalees spoke about the difficulties of coming out, both personally and professionally, and recalled the college tour where she first made that decision.

“The best thing that I can bring to a stage are things that are unique to me,” she said. “Being gay is one of those things.”

Initially advised by industry friends at the onset of her career to stay in the closet, Jalees drew parallels to the coming out of fellow comedian Ellen DeGeneres, whose second TV program, The Ellen Show (in which the character was openly gay from the beginning) was cancelled after only one season.

Jalees also read from a Huffington Post article she had written after breaking the news to her family that she was both happily gay and married.

Titled “My Family Broke Up with Me”, the piece chronicles Jalees’ feeling of abandonment by aunts, uncles and cousins who responded with messages similar to that of a eulogy.

That familial negativity and hostility was eventually curbed, however, as Jalees also read one emotional message that was sent to her following the coming out of her cousin’s close high school friend.

“Coming out can be like cliff jumping. You’re standing at the edge of the cliff, you’re looking over, and you just hope that the water’s there,” she said. “What I can promise is that in the long run — in the relationships that truly matter — the water’s always there.”

Students were encouraged to share their coming out stories by signing an actual closet door showcased at the event.

To Maureen Carnegie, co-chair of Humber’s Gender and Sexual Diversity Committee, events like the diversity talk are key to promoting awareness and acceptance on campus.

“It’s not something we need to keep hidden or keep quiet about,” Carnegie said. “To me, it signifies the fact that Humber really wants to be a very inclusive and welcoming community, and such a visible display really reinforces that.”

And for students like Pigeon, that extends from acceptance to comprehension.

“I hope we end the stigma behind bisexual people,” she said. “I’m hoping with events like this, we open people’s minds to understanding different sexualities.”

Beginning in January, Humber’s LGBTQ student group will meet every Wednesday in room GH101 at North campus and Lakeshore’s K building in room 105.

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