Four LGBTQ+ alumni and one current Ph.D. student spoke at the University of Connecticut about their gender and sexuality experiences during their time at the university and how their identities affect their lives today.
The talk took place at the Rainbow Center and consisted of about an hour of pre-written, open-form questions delivered to the five panelists by a Rainbow Center staff member, followed by a brief opportunity from the audience to ask questions.
Each panelist gave their personal response to every question, delving into what it was like to be out (or in, in some cases) and how their identities shaped their post-scholastic work opportunities.
The five panel members’ collective time at UConn spanned almost 25 years, from attending the university in the late 1980s through early 1990s, when LGBTQ+ rights were still budding amid crushing pressure from the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, all the way through the modern era, where we just saw Danica Roem of Virginia become the first openly transgender person elected to a U.S. state's legislature.
From the accounts of the older members of the panel, it’s much easier to be an out LGBTQ+ person in 2017 than it was a couple of decades ago.
Cassandra Martineau, class of 1992, spoke at length about her experience as a (mostly) closeted transgender woman during her time at Storrs. She said she wore a skirt around campus but didn’t fully come into her own as a woman until after her undergraduate studies.
Kristin Van Ness said her experiences within the human development and family studies department at UConn have been encouraging and allowed her to be open about herself. That sentiment rang true with every answer shared by the panelists: it’s important to stay true to who you really are.
The Rainbow Center has been around for just under two decades now and wasn’t a part of two of the five alumnus’ educational experiences. This event, as eloquently spoken by staff member Hannah Myers, who also led the program, “is important because it’s crucial for LBGTQ+ graduates of UConn to find a community and develop connections, and this event helps people find that out.”
If you weren’t able to attend last night’s panel, don’t fret; Pride From the Past is held annually by the Rainbow Center.
Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.