Campus celebrates coming out day

Brenda Echeverria, Staff Writer

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University of Wisconsin-Whitewater students and staff celebrated National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 in an event held in the Warhawk Connection Center.

The day’s event, which looks to promote LGBTQ awareness, was put on by UW-W LGBT, student organization IMPACT, and the UW-W Pride Center.

Pidgeon Pagonis, an intersex activist, writer and artist, was invited as keynote speaker for the event. Pagonis opened by talking about their own experiences and struggles of coming out. Then the event turned into in an open mic event which allowed others the opportunity to share their own coming out stories.

“Learning how to love is a process. Coming out is also a process” Pagonis said in their keynote address.

Pagonis, who identifies as queer and non-binary uses singular they pronouns. Pagonis was raised a girl, but then later found out that they had been born with internal testes and had been lied to. They had been told that they had ovarian cancer instead.

“I felt like a sham. Alone. I was convinced no one could love me,” Pagonis said about finding out the truth about their medical records.

Their journey was long, and Pagonis did not learn about intersex traits until their freshman year in college at DePaul University.

Pagonis graduated with a degree in Gender Studies and since has spent nearly a decade ‘researching, advocating, and educating a wide range of audiences about the intersex movement for bodily autonomy and justice.’

“Live your truth, then people will feel that. Respect yourself, and then either people can respect you too or they can get out of your life” said Pagonis.

Pagonis spoke of an initial inner struggle to tell friends and family about their androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), the condition that makes them intersex. However, Pagonis encouraged others to embrace themselves, to find love and acceptance within themselves.

Stephanie Selvick, Pride Center Coordinator, also followed Pagonis’ encouragement to embrace oneself and their story.

Selvick explained the importance of taking ownership of one’s coming out story. She said it’s important that someone come out on their own terms instead of being “outed” by others.

Selvick reminded attendees of the event to respect the privacy of those who share and not repeat the stories that are heard.

This was the central idea behind the open mic portion of the event, to create a safe and welcoming atmosphere for students to take ownership of their stories on National Coming Out Day.