The BME Network’s ‘Coming out as a person of Colour’ panel discussion event was held on the 11th of October, which was also ‘National Coming Out Day’. The panel consisted of Louisa Danquah as the BME Representative, Grace Almond (President of the Women of Colour Collective) and Sherina St John as the BME Officer of LGBT+ Society. The evening was made up of a panel based discussion amongst the three representatives, and then question-led discussion was developed after.
The night was mostly about sharing experiences. Coming out stories, people’s encounters with homophobia and how to deal with it, and also, family reactions to individual’s coming out. Social preconceptions were squashed, such as small minded opinions like if you don’t come out as LBGT ‘officially’ then you are not a ‘real one’, or people who have only just opened up about being LGBT+, and are considered by some as ‘small gays’ or ‘baby gays’. One of the main topics of discussion was the way different cultures deal with some sexual orientations. Some put forward that in their cultures, these kinds of things are considered taboo and are generally not spoken about. It was also debated about if the West are as accepting to the LGBT+ community as it would seem, and that as a country who considers itself to keep moving forward, the UK still have old and hurtful attitudes. Relationships with extended families was touched upon, and how some members of the LGBT+ community choose not to come out to anyone outside of their immediate family and so one of the effects of this is needing to ‘censor’ what they put out on social media. It was also touched upon how some parents had gone into denial about their child’s sexuality, even years after them finding out. Many people expressed that their parents still try to push the ‘nuclear family’ upon them as as end goal as if their sexuality was a phase of which they would grow out of soon. Putting names to sexuality was also discussed, and whether it was helpful or negative. Many people shared their experiences of having to explain their sexuality to people who don’t understand.
At the end of the evening, some advice for coming out was shared. The biggest advice was not to rush, to be comfortable and that your personal safety is the most important thing to consider when coming out. The panel advised the members to surround themselves in positivity and associate themselves with people in safe spaces where they can talk freely and openly about their sexuality.
Overall, an incredibly important night for many. The help and advice that was given was genuine and had come from a panel who had wisdom, sensitivity and understanding. The discussions were supportive and open. The event was co-hosted by the WOC Collective and LGBT+ Society.