Award-winning poet and educator Denice Frohman spoke to students, alumni and staff at the Rainbow Center Thursday afternoon for a lecture titled, “Resistance, Otherness and Examining the Performance of Sexuality/Gender.”
The main focus of the lecture was Frohman’s journey in regards to sexuality and how she came to terms with herself as both a member of the LGBT community and as a member of society at large. She touched on aspects of her family life, her time as a basketball player in college and her experience with gender expression amid a family that was reluctant to accept her on-and-off masculine appearance.
Frohman opened the lecture with a powerful monologue, spoken with passion and fiery energy. Her words were fueled by the difficulties she faced in coping with her sexual identity, and also by the contentment and strength she feels for having overcome these difficulties. Frohman's story was one of hardship, internal struggle and the eventual liberation through feeling comfortable in her own skin.
Frohman went into detail about coming out to her mother at age 19. Although Frohman’s mother was accepting of her sexuality, there were times when her mother would express prejudice toward the clothes Frohman wore or the style of her hair.
She recalled a time when her mother said to her, “What, do you want to be a boy?” Frohman said that her mother’s words still haunt her to this day and will never leave her.
She experienced the same type of prejudice with her sisters as well, even though their attitudes were generally ones of acceptance. Frohman said that it has gotten better over the years, but that underlying prejudice still exists.
Even in college, Frohman kept her sexual identity a secret, despite frequent trips to gay clubs.
“I was still operating as if something was wrong with me,” Frohman said of her college experience.
It wasn’t until she was around 25 years old that she finally decided she was “done pleasing everyone” and finally felt liberated.
One of the ways through which Frohman has felt liberated is by writing poetry.
“Poetry has asked me to be more honest with myself… poetry has asked me to stop lying,” she said.
At the end of the lecture, Frohman had time to read two of the poems she had written, both dealing with “firsts.” The first poem took the audience through her first kiss with a boy and then through her first kiss with a girl, using vivid imagery to paint a picture of her emotions pertaining to both experiences.
The second poem was dedicated to NFL player Michael Sam, who came out on national television in footage that showed him embracing his partner.
Frohman said that she wants to see a “radical, liberated love” for everyone. She stressed the importance of going against society’s expectations of gender and sexuality, particularly for people in the LGBT community.
Frohman's writing and work challenges people to undo the gender expectations that are rigidly enforced within our society, and it serves as a powerful reminder to everyone, no matter your race, gender or sexuality, that it is okay to trust yourself.
Casey Virgo is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.