A group of four students sat in chairs on the stage of the HUB-Robeson Center Auditorium Monday night as they were introduced to a small audience of about ten students as “Straight Talk” panelists.
Straight Talks are panels of LGBTA students who “educate the university community on sexual orientation, gender identity, oppression, and diversity at Penn State,” according to the LGBTA Student Resource Center website.
The panelists identified themselves as Joe, a gay man, Mel, a bisexual woman, Lauren, a transsexual woman, and LeShae, a straight woman.
The story of Joe Charette (junior-psychology) left a lot of audience members laughing, as he told the story of a conservative family led by two parents who were veteran Marines, and the acceptance he received from his family that surprised him.
“My dad has become my biggest supporter — he came to Pride Week last spring,” Charette said. “My mom struggled a bit at first, because she thinks [being gay] is a choice… but we recently bonded over our mutual love for Channing Tatum.”
The next story, the story of Lauren Seiders (senior-biology), is one that didn’t follow quite as smooth of a process — Seiders struggled with depression throughout grade school, and had to take medical leave for the issue before completing her first year of college.
Seiders said she didn’t always know growing up as a male that she truly identified as a woman, but realized it in her early twenties, and has since been happier since making the transition.
“I went back to college at Penn State Berks when I was still in the awkward androgynous phase, but people were pretty accepting,” Seiders said. “I joined the small Rainbow Alliance there and legally changed my name… now I’m dealing with adopting a genderqueer identity — I’m accepting the masculine aspects of myself and learning to be okay with them.”
LeShae Daniel (junior- Human Development and Family Studies) brought a different perspective to the panel — while she didn’t herself identify as LGBT, she considers herself an ally of the community, helping to constitute the “A” of “LGBTA.”
Daniel grew up with a girl named Jasmine because their mothers were best friends, and when Jasmine came out to Daniel she said her perspective of her friend didn’t change at all.
“[Jasmine] wanted to tell her mom [she was gay] on Christmas Eve. By the end of the night, everyone was sitting around looking at her like she was an alien,” Daniel said. “Her parents kicked her out, and I went with her because she was like family to me, and I didn't like the way they were treating her. She was still the same person; the only difference was she’s into girls.”
One student in the audience said he attended the event as a part of a project for class, but said he enjoyed the event and learned a lot.
“I'm doing this as a part of my ‘expand my horizons’ project, which is to make us go out of our comfort zones. I learned a lot, especially about the terms — like now I know what an ally is, so I think that's really helpful,” Andree Andree (sophomore-engineering) said.