Big Gay Panel answers questions about LGBT community

Janet Pernell, Staff Reporter

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect proper terminology.

People in the LGBT community gathered together to answer questions about their identities within the community and other issues.

The Big Gay Panel took place in the Phipps Auditorium in the Life Sciences Building at 7 p.m. and lasted for an hour.

There were five panelists there to answer the questions of those who were curious to know more about the LGBT community.

When the panel started, each panelist started with their name, grade, major and a story about how they revealed their gender or sexual identities to their families.

People in the audience received a few index cards and pens to write questions down for the panelists to ask them questions or for advice.

Once the audience finished writing down questions for the panelist, the panel began with the Q&A. The Q&A was a “blind” one. The panelists did not know which person in the audience asked which specific question.

During the panel, the panelists answered many questions about their lives and what it is like to come across people who are not aware of people in the LGBT community.

Yolanda Williams, an academic adviser in Gateway, talked about how she came across a person one day who was questioning about sexual identity and asked her about going to Hell. Williams said she responded that it is OK to be comfortable with her sexuality and she should not receive any punishment for it.

Williams also explained how older minority women do not talk much about being LGBT but that it would not hurt to do so. She also thought that the panel made an impact.

“It provides support, information. It provides just a community,” Williams said. “I think it’s awesome. I think it’s important.”

Brody Wilt, a junior sociology major, explained stereotypes in the panel. He spoke on how some men that dress well may be first viewed as gay, but that is not always the case.

Wilt said that the panel was an opportunity for each of the panelists to educate those who are unfamiliar with the LGBT community.

“It’s an opportunity for us to educate others,” Wilt said. “It serves to educate other students who may not have a good set of resources to learn about these things on their own.”

Jess Howell, a senior special education major, explained in the panel about how she attends a Christian church and when she revealed her sexuality to the church, the members of the church accepted her as she was and gave her hugs.

Howell said her family was also accepting of her coming out as a gay female and she brings her girlfriend around her family.

Ben Wilburn, the LGBTQA Resource Center coordinator, said that the panel brings a good sense of awareness, and it gave people a chance to get together and ask questions that they may not have had the chance to ask otherwise.

Wilburn also said that the panel was a way to build a campus community.

“I think it can help people, and it’s a great opportunity,” Wilburn said. “We came a long way since then, and it’s a great turnout.”


Janet Pernell can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].