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Phoenix Gathers for National Coming Out Day Discussion

Kim Powell | News Editor | 10-13-2011
Bemidji State University’s gay-straight alliance group, the Phoenix, held a discussion panel on National Coming Out Day (NCOD) in Hagg-Sauer 100 where several students listened to coming out stories and asked questions.
NCOD is an internationally observed civil awareness day held on October 11 since 1988.
“While sexual orientation is a big part of who you are, it’s not the only part,” said Jini Block, president of the Phoenix and a senior instrumental music education major.
Block, who is bisexual and recently married, was one of five who shared their stories on Tuesday night. She first came out to her friends that she was bisexual, and then her parents, which led her to getting kicked out of her house during her senior year of high school.
“I had to sleep on my friends’ couches,” Block said.
Another panel member, Joe Moubry, had a similar situation. After being bullied in high school and confiding in his principal for help, his mother soon found out and kicked him out of the house.
“In a small town like Ely, everyone knows your business by supper time,” said Moubry. “Bemidji is much more welcoming than Ely.”
Marissa Stitt, a senior at BSU, had a different story though. She considers herself a straight ally, meaning she supports the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
“As an ally, you almost have a coming out story yourself,” said Stitt.
After overhearing men harassing her gay uncle, she decided she would step up for the LGBT community and show her support. She is also an active member of the Phoenix.
Tandy Bowman, a member of Servant Hearts, also shared her story of not coming out until she was 46 years old.
“I would never acknowledge anything different with me,” said Bowman. After physically deteriorating and becoming ill, she finally came out to her father, who was a preacher in Texas.
“He said, ‘I don’t understand it, but I love you no less than yesterday,’” said Bowman.
Bowman’s partner, Cathy Perry, joined her in the panel discussion as well. Perry had been married for 27 years with three grown children and five grandchildren before coming out as bisexual. After leaving her husband who had fallen mentally ill, she discovered she had feelings for both men and women.
Perry is the program director at Servant Hearts and Bowman helps with anger management and health rhythms. Servant Hearts is a nonprofit organization that works to increase awareness and services for LGBT and other questioning people. They also provide R&B therapeutic drumming that helps with stress reduction and conflict resolution.
At the end of the discussion, students were able to ask questions, in which suicide prevention, parental issues, and religion came up.
“Coming out is a continuous process,” said Block, who said she just came out again to more people a few weeks ago. “It’s a lifelong thing.”
The Phoenix meets every Wednesday at 3 p.m. on the second floor of the Lower Union, and is always accepting new members.