Actor talks about gay image for Coming Out Week

Olivia Mihalic

Out of every 10 homosexuals, three will be homeless, five will have suffered from physical harm due to being gay, none will get married, nine will have contemplated suicide and three will have already tried.

That was one point actor Jamie McGonnigal talked last night in the Student Center. McGonnigal’s speech, which is a part of PRIDE!Kent’s Coming Out Week, focused on gay stereotypes in the media and building the gay community.

McGonnigal came from New York City to talk about his experiences and the evolution of society’s portrayals of gays in the media.

“What I have seen develop in my short time on Earth is lack of community, community dissolving,” McGonnigal said.

He said the statistics about gay individuals showed the need to form a bond within the gay community.

“This shows how important community is and what a difference one person can make,” he said.

McGonnigal also spoke about the emotions people go through when coming out of the closet and how he felt as a young kid.

He said he would read the backs of movie covers at the video store, and if they sounded even remotely gay, he would watch them. This was just to feel like he was a part of a community, he said.

“We’re all yearning to be a part of something,” he said. “I was looking for anything in the ’80s saying it’s OK to be gay.”

Junior nursing major Morgan Soeder was in the audience. Soeder is a member of The Dive, which is known as the Campus Crusade for Christ.

“We’re just communicating love to them,” Soeder said. “That’s why we’re here. That’s why we brought cookies and a card.”

Also speaking was Jae Lerer, treasurer of PRIDE!Kent, who spoke about the history of gay people and how they were portrayed in the media throughout the decades.

“If you’re gay, there’s something wrong with you,” he said, imitating the stereotype the media gives to gay people. “That’s the image that was given to generations of homosexuals.”

Sometimes, he said, gay people diffuse the situation by making fun of themselves.

“That’s our coping mechanism,” McGonnigal said. “That’s how we get through.”

As for McGonnigal, he is now working on the World AIDS Day concert in New York City. This year’s theme will be the Secret Garden. He is also working on getting those statistics named earlier to become lower and lower, he said.

“I have no doubt in my mind those numbers will go down,” he said. “But it’s going to take work from all of us.”

Contact on-campus entertainment reporter Olivia Mihalic at [email protected].