The Low-down on ODU Out
By: Elizabeth Mazorra
In the Newport News Room at Webb Center, three giant screens on one side of the room, all with an image of a rainbow flag proudly, were hanging from the ceiling. A table and five seats were neatly placed below one of the screens, patiently waiting for the speakers who would soon occupy those chairs. Groups of people huddled around the refreshments table, talking to one another, the majority of them wearing shirts that had rainbow-colored sound bars, with the bottom of the shirts reading “Out Loud!” In a room where stereotypes and gender roles don’t exist, the members of ODU Out, the campus lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer, intersexual and allies/asexual (LGBTQIA), held a program called “Homo 101;” the program’s intent was to help people understand the struggles that the LGBTQIA students and community face on a day to day basis.
Around 7 p.m. in the Newport News, Ryan “Red” West, the president of ODU Out, asked everyone to sit down and announced that the program would be beginning. Along with him on the panel were students Kim G., Dylan W., Alex D., and graduate student Katie McDaniel. As everyone sat down, McDaniel began a video that started out optimistic about the lives of LGBTQIA students, but soon began to show the darker side to what these students have to go through. Hate signs, murders and, a topic that has become recently noticed, anti-gay bullying. Her video showed various students who were killed for being gay, as well as students who committed suicide, such as Tyler Clementi. When the video ended, West asked the students who sat in the audience how they felt. Some replied that they felt it was effective and that they felt a myriad of emotions. McDaniel decided to narrow the responses and asked, “Was anybody not pissed off during the video?”
No one raised their hand.
McDaniel then proceeded to introduce herself and her husband, who is active in the military. She told the audience there what they could expect from the program and what they hoped to achieve; a better understanding of the gay community. She hoped not to sound mean, but she did not want the topic of sexuality “to matter. I don’t want people to care. I want to show that we’re all just people first.” She talked about her graduate classes at ODU, explained how “Homo 101” was a project she was doing for her teacher, and made it a stark point—without saying so—that she was not going to tell us her sexuality as part of her introduction.
After McDaniel spoke, West asked everyone to participate in the next exercise, which was first done by Robin Oats. Everyone was handed a sheet of paper asking what people’s general sexuality was overall, their sexual attractions and their fantasies. Students were to answer with a number in reference to the Kinsey scale. The Kinsey scale is a set of numbers from zero to six—zero means completely heterosexual and six means completely homosexual, while the number three meant bisexual with an equal affinity towards both genders. The students were moved to another room where the numbers zero through six were taped on a floor, and were asked to move to this numbers each time a question corresponded to that number. The exercise proved that, truthfully, everyone is a little gay. Interestingly enough, Kinsey’s research has stated that if a person lies on zero or six—completely heterosexual or completely homosexual, respectively—then there is something wrong with that person.
After the students were all returned to the Newport News Room, they all had a small speed-dating activity to get to know each other better. The students enjoyed their time together, but were soon returned to their seats where the topic of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was discussed. Some of the ODU Out members were interviewed by WAVY News 10 about the repealing of DADT, and how that would better the military and the closeted individuals who are serving. Speaking as a person who is active duty military, McDaniel’s husband said, “It’s stupid. Why are we still having this conversation in 2010?” He explained to the students that he’d rather have someone extremely qualified for their job; if they happen to be gay it doesn’t matter. He also explained to the students that even those who retire from the military cannot be “out,” since they can technically be called back into service.
The panel at the table told the students their coming out stories and the troubles they faced when they were finally out. Kim G. said, “It’s a lot easier now. You never wanna feel like you’re hiding something from somebody you love.” Dylan W., though not completely accepted by his father, said “I don’t think I should have to say that I’m gay…I define myself as me.” He did not want have “I’m gay” be his tagline for his introductions. Alex P., who recently discovered he was bisexual, realized his sexuality when he felt strong feelings for a male and female. He strongly believes that just because he is bisexual, or just because anyone is bisexual, it does not mean that they are promiscuous. Finally, West told the students his own complicated coming out story; he told the audience his confusion with boys, his struggle with religion and his fears at high school. However, the students in his old high school, who once made fun of others for seeming gay, accepted West. West became popular in his school and started the first Gay-Straight Alliance in his high school. Although he is currently dating a male, he has recently considered himself “awesome-sexual,” because he is “only going to be with people I see as awesome.” After the program, the students hung around to talk with each other and continue sharing their experiences. Everyone in that room really seemed to love the rainbow.
ODU Out will be having another program in the spring called Trans-Talk, where transsexual students discuss their lives and the struggles they face. ODU Out meets every other Tuesday during activity hour. The days they do not have meetings, they have a “Gaymes Night” at 7 p.m. Students do not have to be LGBTQIA students to join.