Flashes of Pride: Benner

Carrie George

It took senior American Sign Language major Laura Beth Benner six years to come out as bisexual to her parents.

By the age of 13, Benner knew she identified as bisexual. However, she also knew her parents would struggle to understand her sexual orientation because she had been in a heterosexual relationship.

“When I first came out to my parents and tried to explain to them that I liked girls as well as guys, I had previously dated a man for four years,” Benner said. “It was kind of a shock to them.”

Benner describes herself as bisexual to others, but identifies personally as pansexual.

“Pansexual is when you can be attracted to anybody,” Benner said. “It could be straight men, it could be lesbian women, trans people both men and women, people who are nonbinary or not gender specific.”

Though she knew her sexual orientation in eighth grade, she did not come out to anyone until her freshman year of college. She did not come out to her family until her sophomore year.

Coming from a small town, Benner described as conservative and largely Catholic, Benner struggled to find the right time and place to come out.

“I came from a very religious home and it wasn’t talked about,” Benner said. “It wasn’t really accepted.”

She was afraid to tell her parents and worried that they might disown her, cut her off or throw her out.

“I was really nervous and didn’t want to tell them in person, so I wrote them notes,” Benner said.

At first, neither of her parents said anything.

“I was so nervous just handing them the letters and not hearing anything back,” Benner said. “So I was like, ‘Okay Mom, what do you think?’ and she said, ‘Well I don’t really know what to say,’ and she kind of gave me the whole ‘This is why God flooded the earth’ speech.”

Benner still hasn’t spoken to her dad directly about her sexuality.

“They still respect me and they still love me, (but) they just prefer not to talk to me or anything like that, which I respect,” Benner said.

Benner came out publicly after the U.S. legalization of same sex marriage in 2015.

The discussions and feelings of acceptance in society accompanying the legalization encouraged Benner to open up about her identity.

She recalled “feeling like maybe it would be more acceptable then, because all these people were talking about it.”

As the captain of the color guard in the Kent State marching band, Benner tries to help fellow band members grow comfortable in expressing their identities.

“It’s kind of cool to be one of those people that younger members can look up to and talk to and not feel like they’re being excluded and singled out in that kind of setting,” Benner said.

Involvement in the 2016 Flashes of Pride poster series gave Benner a platform to express herself as a student, a leader and a future teacher.

“I’m putting it out there to the entire city of Kent that I’m proud of who I am. I’m proud of my identity,” she said.

Carrie George is the is the administration and diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected].