National Coming Out Day: Lectures outline struggles and successes of LGBT community

The Office of Diversity Services hosted self-proclaimed “transactivist” Justin Adkins for this year’s annual event on National Coming Out day, last Thursday, October 11.  Before the event, students mingled with Craig Cullinane, associate director of Diversity Services at Suffolk University and coordinator of the event, while helping themselves to some refreshments.

“Suffolk University wants to support and provide resources for the LGBTQ community,” said Cullinane. “We want students to know we are an ally and an advocate.”

As one of the events scheduled for LGBTQ History Month, the presentation titled “My Fabulous Transgender Life” created a light-hearted and friendly environment for the students who attended.

Adkins works with students at Williams College on issues of gender, sexuality, and activism. He met Mother Theresa during his time as a missionary and spent time living in both India and Zimbabwe.

Justin Adkins experienced “coming out” three separate times, and he shared his story with the students at the event. He explained how he had been born a woman and initially came out as a lesbian. Eventually, he realized that he didn’t identify himself as a woman and started testosterone treatments. After that, he became conscious of the fact that he was bisexual.

“There’s me in my genderless state,” Adkins explained as he showed the audience a picture of his pregnant mother. “It was fabulous!”

The event was kept upbeat and open as Adkins shared his story and created a safe space for those in attendance. Though he has dealt with serious struggles of his own during his journey, he was a positive representation of the success and happiness students can achieve through self-expression.

Adkins also discussed discrimination that he experienced at the hands of the NYPD during the Occupy Wall Street movement. At the time, he reached out to the media to tell his story in order to expose the unfair treatment of the LGBTQ community. He encouraged others to share their stories and to speak up about discrimination so that they too can prompt serious changes in social attitude and behavior.

However, coming out isn’t just for members of the LGBTQ community; both Cullinane and Adkins stressed the importance of coming out as both allies and advocates. In fact, Suffolk University is one of the first schools in the country to include gender identity and expression in their discrimination policy. LGBTQ History Month is a celebration of the community as a whole, including those who are willing to reach out and become friends to those who need support and encouragement.

The next event scheduled at Suffolk University for LGBTQ History Month is the “Brown Bag Lunch Discussion: The Election and the LGBTQ Vote” on Thursday, Oct. 18 in Donahue 403. This will be an opportunity for members of the LGBTQ community, as well as allies and advocates, to come together and discuss topical issues as the November 6 election approaches.