Club preps for Coming Out Week

Tim Magaw

PRIDE!Kent board members Amanda Boyd, president; Carrie Wicks, programming chair; and Shawn Szymeck, vice president, shared their coming out stories. Today marks the first day of PRIDE!Kent’s annual Coming Out Week. LESLIE CUSANO | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

Wedged between traditional Homecoming festivities and the extravagances leading up to Halloween is a week of events students might not know about – PRIDE!Kent’s Coming Out Week.

“It brings everyone together,” PRIDE!Kent President Amanda Boyd said. “It’s a planned week to embrace the (LGBT) community, basically.”

For this year’s Coming Out Week, PRIDE!Kent has booked syndicated sex and relationship columnist Dan Savage and openly gay “Amazing Race 3” cast member Andrew Hyde. Other planned social events include Queers on Ice at the Ice Arena and PRIDE!Kent’s annual Halloween Ball in the Rathskeller.

Boyd said the week isn’t just for older members of the LGBT community.

“It’s just as important for the younger members of the university who are intimidated to come out,” she said.

An early morning shock

Boyd came out to her mother when she was 16 years old.

Hiding beneath the covers of her bed early one morning, Boyd was talking to her girlfriend on the phone. Boyd said her mother walked into the bedroom looking for the phone, and an argument ensued.

Her mother kept asking, “What’s wrong with you?”

Boyd replied, “Well, if you really want to know, I’m gay.”

Her mother stormed out, and Boyd said she remembers hearing her mother pacing outside. Her mother stomped back into the bedroom and yelled, “Like hell you are!”

Boyd said the prospect of coming out was terrifying.

“You never know,” she said. “You can speculate how people are going to react, but you don’t know.”

Hiding her sexuality was the most stressful experience of her life, Boyd added.

“It’s a big relief to open up about it,” she said. “I had been struggling to tell her for a long time.”

In a letter

The first person PRIDE!Kent Vice President Shawn Szymecki told he was gay was his best friend. He was in the 10th grade.

Szymecki said one of his other friends had recently come out as well.

“I was glad they accepted me,” he said, “but I wasn’t doubting they would.”

It wasn’t until last year around Halloween that he told his 16-year-old sister.

“She kind of knew and didn’t care,” Szymecki said. “She was happy I told her.”

Last year, he said he went home with PRIDE!Kent allies chair Michelle Lang for a friend’s wedding. Before he returned to campus, Szymecki said he left his parents a letter telling them he was gay.

He said his parents called him and told him it was OK. Since coming out, Szymecki said his sister has kept him informed of what his parents are saying while he’s away at school. He also said his sister has verbally attacked their parents if they say anything remotely anti-gay.

“(My parents) are slowly getting better about catching themselves saying random anti-gay things,” Szymecki said, adding that his parents have been more accepting of his sexuality.

Behind closed doors

PRIDE!Kent programming chair Carrie Wicks was 15 years old when she came out to her older sister, Angela, who is also gay and a former PRIDE!Kent president.

“It was nice knowing I could go to her because she was gay,” Wicks said. “It brought us closer. It was really comforting.”

Wicks didn’t tell her parents she was gay until she was in college. She said her parents were visiting her in her room before her sister’s graduation. Wicks’ parents kept asking what was on her mind, but she didn’t tell them because she didn’t want to distract from her sister’s graduation.

Wicks’ parents eventually left the room, and Ally Oulton, PRIDE!Kent’s treasurer and historian, said, “Carrie, why didn’t you tell them you’re a dyke?”

Little did Wicks know that her parents were just outside the door.

After her sister’s graduation, Wicks was riding home with her parents, and her sister sent her mom a text message telling her Carrie had something to say.

Wicks told her parents she was gay.

“They were confused,” Wicks said. “It was different because I dated a lot of men in the past, and (Angela) didn’t.”

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Tim Magaw at [email protected].

Coming Out Week

Monday, Oct. 16 – Information Table, noon to 3 p.m. in Risman Plaza; Queers on Ice, 9:45 to 11:15 p.m. in the Ice Arena

Tuesday, Oct. 17 – Andrew Hyde, 8 p.m. in Bowman Hall

Wednesday, Oct. 18 – Queers on Ice, again! 9:30 to 11 p.m. in the Ice Arena

Thursday, Oct. 19 – Dan Savage, 6 p.m. in Carol A. Cartwright Hall

Friday, Oct. 20 – Halloween Ball, 9 p.m. to midnight in the Rathskeller