Ashlyn Curley – Opinion Editor
Student Voices, a panel of students who speak about pressing issues, recently held a discussion led by Professor Marsha Mirkin about gender identity and sexual orientation. The group consisted of four students with different sexual orientations and they spoke about misconceptions, their experiences coming out, and everyday hardships they face.
Senior Hayden Weltin, a transgender male, spoke of common misunderstandings about being transgender and asexual.
“[People say] you’ll never fall in love, never have sex, and never have a family,” said Weltin, who recently got engaged. “We can be in long term-committed relationships even without sex.”
According to the panel, conversations about sexual orientation often turn purely sexual.
“‘Can I watch?’ comes up a lot,” said freshmen Oz Disorbo, who identifies as a lesbian. “Please never do that. It’s a creepy question.”
Disorbo and freshmen Jay Franzone talked about the stereotype of “wearing the pants.”
“People ask ‘Who wears the pants?’” said Disorbo. “No one. That’s not a thing. There is no male/female role. That’s kind of the point.”
As a gay male, Franzone hears the same question when going out with his boyfriend.
“My boyfriend and I would go out and when it was time to pay we’d [be asked] ‘Who’s wearing the pants tonight?’”
Franzone clarified stereotypes associated with his sexual orientation, saying some stereotypes of gay males are associated with shopping, Prada, and musical theater.
“I don’t go shopping every weekend,” said Franzone, “I don’t have money for Prada, and I don’t like musical theater.”
Freshmen Mylette Beerman prefers to not associate her orientation with any labels, but for the discussion she identified as bisexual. A common misconception she experiences is her orientation is only about sex.
“People would ask ‘Are you flirting with me because you like everyone?” said Beermen.
The panel discussion then led to the struggles of coming out; Weltin explained this process.
“It’s more than a one-time thing,” he said. “You come out to yourself… You meet other people in your life and have to choose whether or not to come out to them… There’s a multi-step process in coming out and a lot of people don’t realize it.”
All members experienced coming out. Franzone came out as gay in 2010 and said it was an emotional process, but his family embraced him and he was fortunate.
Beerman’s experience, however, was not as smooth.
“I lost all my friends,” said Beerman. “My best friend said she didn’t want to sleep over anymore because she didn’t want to catch the gay.”
Disorbo had a positive experience coming out to friends, but a negative experience when coming out to her Roman Catholic Italian family.
“In my family, being gay isn’t a thing…I was very sheltered and didn’t know about it until high school.”
When Disorbo came out to her parents, she was told she was not allowed to come out to the rest of the family, especially her grandmother.
“They said she’ll have a heart attack and die or try to exercise the gay out of me and that she’d be obligated to hate me.”
Disorbo’s mother outed her at her graduation party after Disboro was told not to introduce her girlfriend to the family.
“Everyone knows now and it wasn’t my choice… So my mom gets to construe it through her eyes and put her negative spin on it,” said Disorbo.
The last topic the panel discussed was strength and what they hope to see in the future.
“There’s not really an option to not have strength,” said Disorbo, “Because life is going to suck and you’re going to die.”
For Weltin, being an activist was his way of giving back. Weltin has been fighting for gender-neutral housing since his freshman year and it has been approved for next year.