Kent students describe “coming out” experiences

Amy Cooknick

Why should I care?

This week was Ally Week, a follow-up to National Coming Out Week in mid-October. Allies of the LGBTQ community need to understand why it is important to support members of the LGBTQ community as they “come out.”

Imagine having a secret with the potential to drastically change every relationship you’ve ever had. Sharing this secret could mean separating yourself from family and friends forever, but keeping it would mean living as a stranger for the rest of your life.

Lillian Reznik: transgender

Lillian Reznik, sophomore anthropology major, said she struggled with this situation over the summer while preparing to tell her parents she was transgender.

“Parents do reject children for a number of different things,” Reznik said. “I thought (my parents) would (reject me), but they haven’t.”

Reznik said she sent her parents a letter in early September explaining to them how she knew she is a transwoman — a female in a man’s body.


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“I knew that if it was written down, I would be able to be more clear,” Reznik said. “There would be some permanence. Plus, I know my parents. They would have argued, and I figured if I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be a physical distraction. I wouldn’t be there to divert them from how they needed to respond.”

Reznik, who turned 30 in August, said the journey that lead her to send that letter was a long and challenging one.

“Ever since I was about seven or eight, I’ve been gradually going through this process of, ‘Who am I?’” she said. “When I was a teenager I didn’t know about (transgenders), so I just thought I was probably gay. But that wasn’t exactly right.”

Reznik said she was born male, but has biologically has the brain composition of a woman. To remedy this disparity, Reznik recently began hormone replacement therapy to block testosterone and increase estrogen in her body.

“You feel more grounded when you finally have the right hormones in your body,” Reznik said. “There’s a lot of work involved, but ultimately if it is the right decision, it’s one you have to make.”

Reznik said she gets support from friends in PRIDE! Kent and from a close childhood friend, who was the first person she came out to. She said her parents try to be supportive, but they still struggle to understand what it means to be transgender.

“They refuse to talk about it,” Reznik said. “My mother was trying to learn about it, but she doesn’t even know how to ask questions about it. That’s how far-removed of a concept it even is to her.”

KentWired Video

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Leah Evanovich, freshman double-majoring in psychology and English, talks about the LGBTQ community and breaking down barriers. Video by Nicole Septaric.

How to be an ally:

Laurie Wagner, health sciences professor, offered the following tips on how to be a responsible ally.

  • Rid your vocabulary of harmful and discriminatory language.

    “Create a safe environment for people to be whomever they are without fear of harassment or verbal abuse or discrimination. Not only not using that language yourself, but discouraging the use of that language with others.”

  • Be inclusive.

    “Be respectful of the fact that people are of different sexual orientations. Do not necessarily assume that if you’re talking to a man that his partner would be female and vice versa.”

  • Recognize that sexual orientation does not change your relationship with an LGBTQ friend.

    “Being an ally essentially means to just be someone who understands and who is open and accepting. It’s just being a human without prejudice.”

  • Be open-minded.

    “Keep an open mind when you’re talking to people; their orientation might not be what you think.”

  • Allow people to be themselves.

    “If someone’s orientation bothers you, it’s not their problem. It’s your problem.”

  • Recognize that coming out is a big deal.

    “Be like, ‘I’m so happy for you. I’m so excited that you figured that out about yourself and that you’re comfortable. I’m so thrilled that you shared this with me.’ Share in the person’s coming-out.

Jake Green: gay

Jake Green, freshman public health major, said his parents were more understanding when he came out to them in September.

Green said he first told his parents he was bisexual during his junior year of high school.

“I wrote a letter to my parents,” Green said. “In it I mentioned the fact that I was bi, at which point I was pretty sure that I wasn’t, but I said that I was. And that’s been their knowledge of everything since then, until about a month ago.”

That was when Green sent his parents another letter coming out as gay. He said he timed the mailing of his letter to align with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which he found symbolic of his fresh start with his parents.

“They called me the second they got it in the mail, which was a lot sooner than I thought they would, so I was not totally prepared for the phone call,” Green said. “But they were totally chill with everything. I basically got what I feel was the best response. They cared, they love me, but they didn’t see anything as different.”

Green said his coming out process began his sophomore year of high school when he told a small group of close friends he was gay.

“You don’t come out once,” Green said. “You come out a thousand times to everyone.”

Green said the most difficult experience he had in coming out was telling his girlfriend the truth.

“I suppose I broke up with her by coming out to her,” Green said. “She was cool with it in principle because she has no problem with gay people, but she was not cool with the fact that her boyfriend was coming out to her. I had to approach that in a much more emotionally based way.”

From there he said the news spread around his high school with neutral to positive responses until he felt ready to put it on Facebook.

“At that point it was like everyone who needed to know knew, as far as peers were concerned,” Green said. “But I left my parents for last. I don’t know why I was worried (about telling them), but there was something with the fact that no matter what I thought they would think, I didn’t know that’s what they were going to think.”

Contact Amy Cooknick at [email protected].