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Being gay is more than just a sexual orientation, according to Conference on World Affairs panelists.
The panel “Gay Culture: Acceptance and Assimilation” catered a full house Friday, as students and community members gathered in the UMC Center Ballroom to hear renowned speakers from all over the country.
The topics discussed ranged from terms like “homo hip-hop” and civil unions, to the rapid discrimination of bisexuals. Many of the panel members shared personal stories from their past with the audience.
One panelist, Lynne Johnson, a social media strategist and researcher, discussed her experiences with discrimination as an openly gay woman and also as member of the African-American community.
“I’m black and I’m a woman, but I’m also a lesbian,” Johnson said. “The question I ask myself is, which one of these things is supposed to go first?”
Sanho Tree, a panelist and director of the Drug Policy Project in Washington, D.C., said he did not come out until after college.
“If I had come out six years earlier, I would probably be dead,” Tree said. “I have a rolodex full of dead friends [from college].”
Kyrsten Sinema, panelist and state senator for Arizona’s District 15, is the first openly-gay woman to run for office in Arizona. Sinema said she identifies herself as bisexual and still experiences discrimination from many groups of people.
“You live in this world of confusion, facing discrimination from both gay and straight people,” Sinema said.
Sinema said she is comfortable with her decision to embrace her bisexuality and to disregard all the intolerance she has been faced with.
Behind her campaign, Sinema has fought for gay rights in Arizona. She took a holistic approach to the gay rights debate and shifted the focus from gay marriage to a focus on hospital visitation rights for gay couples.
The final panelist, Evelyn Resh, is a sexuality counselor in a gay marriage and has two daughters, ages 20 and 24, she said.
Resh joked about her wedding day, when she received a condolences card as her wedding present from her mother, but became more serious when discussing her relationship with her own children.
“I realized that I don’t want my children to suffer,” Resh said.
Amed Castillo, a 22-year-old junior and international affairs major, said he is openly gay and that he associated with many of the issues discussed.
“I have definitely experienced discrimination,” Castillo said. “It’s not like I got beat up or anything, but there were definitely times when people were screaming at me from car windows.”
Castillo affirmed that he has never been discriminated against in Boulder and that in his experience, everyone has seemed very open-minded toward the topic of gay rights.
Elizabeth McLaren, an 18-year-old freshman environmental studies major, said she attended the conference for extra credit, but shared a story of her personal encounter with the topic.
“There was a boy at my high school who was gay and he was bullied a lot for being gay,” McLaren said.
Liana Walsh, a 22-year-old graduate law student, said she came to the conference to gauge a sense of Boulder’s reaction toward the gay community.
“I was actually really surprised from everyone’s responses,” Walsh said. “The community was really well accepting.”
Contact CU Independent Writer Audrey Hoffman-Lekmine at Audrey.email@example.com.