In honor of National Coming Out Day, ASU's Rainbow Coalition partnered with Ignite @ ASU to host OUTxIgnite. Students shared their own coming out stories and LGBTQIA+ experiences in a TEDTalk style event that highlighted every aspect of coming out. Podcaster Kate Ourada sat down with Gage Keranen, a leader within Rainbow Coalition who spoke at the event, to hear their insight on that evening's proceedings.
Gage Keranen: In my process of coming to terms with my identity, I never saw stories like mine that went well. I never saw the stories of people who were threatened before coming out and who made it. I never saw stories of people who knew it wasn't going to go well and who made it. And I thought thought that you couldn't survive something like that. And that's why my story is really important, because you never know who is listening, who is watching and how desperately they need to hear your story.
Kate Ourada: This year, in honor of National Coming Out Day, ASU's Rainbow Coalition partnered with Ignite@ASU to host a series of TED talk style short stories by LGBT+ students sharing their personal coming out experiences. Who you just heard was one of the leading members of the Rainbow Coalition, who sat down with me to explain more.
Gage Keranen: My name is Gage and I'm the facilitator of programing for the Rainbow Coalition.
The Rainbow Coalition is an umbrella organization for all the LGBTQ clubs on campus, which are the student organizations. Students get connected first and foremost through those student organizations that meet weekly, bi-weekly and have fun events, they have speaking events. Within the Rainbow Coalition, we support those student organizations' leadership. We provide financial resources. We help them plan events.
We bring them together for Pride Week. Stuff like that.
We create websites such as OUT at ASU, which is our website, that has all the on campus resources for LGBTQ people and we include them in that space and help them connect with the students that need to find them.
Kate Ourada: Why do you think that connection is important?
Gage Keranen: That connection is hugely important because loneliness is something that's very common in the LGBT community. Lots of people who don't know that there's people like themselves who exist and having a form of community, having people to talk to, people to share experiences with, basically people that you trust in the community is hugely important for students feeling safe and included on campus.
Kate Ourada: Why did you decide to put on OUTxIgnite?
Gage Keranen: OUTxIgnite is a new event by the Rainbow Coalition that we're hoping to do every year from now on. What it's going to be sort of like a TED talk style for coming out stories where people have a short amount of time to share their story. It's kind of a way to draw awareness to the diversity of experiences in the LGBT community.
Kate Ourada : What went into putting on the event?
Gage Keranen : Basically, we partnered with Ignite, which regularly does speaking events like this to create a pride related or pride specific event.
Kate Ourada : So why do you think it's important?
Gage Keranen: I think that this event was very important because we all have very different stories, very different voices. It's really important to see that very large variety in stories and experiences and that there is no one story, there's no one voice.
Kate Ourada : Do you feel that the event was successful?
Gage Keranen: I think it was great for the first time that we've ever done it. We had a good turnout. Lots of people from the community showed up. Yeah, it was fantastic.
Kate Ourada: What would you like to see for next year?
Gage Keranen : I think that what I would like to do for the future is to have not only speakers who are talking about their coming out stories, but people just talking about their LGBT experiences in general. If this could be an event that's not just specific to coming out stories and if we could perhaps have a segment on what Rainbow Co. is and what Ignite is, that way the event isn't just to show people these stories, but also to show them here's how you can connect.
Kate Ourada : So you chose to share your own story tonight. How were you feeling about that?
Gage Keranen: I was really nervous about sharing my own story because I struggle a lot with speaking because of my voice. I have a lot of voice dysphoria and also because it's not an easy stories to share in general.
Kate Ourada : Why did you choose to share then?
Gage Keranen : I chose to share it because there's probably someone needs to hear that story. When I was first coming to terms with my identity, I didn't know that there are people who survived coming out when they had been threatened by their families before coming out, or who knew that it wasn't going to go well. By telling my story, I feel like maybe I could give hope to someone who's in that situation, who feels like they can't do it because they wouldn't be able to make it and hasn't seen like a role model, who's been through that, who survived it and who's thriving.
Kate Ourada : What kind of impact do you think this event will have going forward?
Gage Keranen : I would hope that this event can give voice to, like I said, the diversity in the stories that we have here on campus. To show that there's no one way to come out, that there's so many different ways to come out. And people are ready at different points in their lives. People find their identities in different ways, to help people feel like there isn't a box. There isn't a step one, two, three, for coming out.
Kate Ourada: For the State Press, I'm Kate Ourada.
Gage Keranen: I want to leave you all today with a phrase that has kept me going on my worst days. Tomorrow will be kinder. I am living proof of that. Even though things aren't perfect right now and I'm still working it out, I really believe that tomorrow will be kinder. Thank you.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article used controversial terminology to describe the LGBTQIA+ community. This article has been updated to use more inclusive language.