By Jennie Orton
CALGARY — “Coming out,” long the daunting milestone in the life of any member of the LGBTQ community, has evolved into a much larger and more embraced practice over the last two decades; one that not only frees but brings together. In our reasonably comfortable part of the world, such an act could conceivably cost you your career or your standing until recently. Now, it can result in being given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs.
This important evolution of understanding and acceptance has been made possible partly by open dialogue and the humanization of those in the process of self-realization; an idea that is truly universal. It is this kind of dialogue and visibility that the Coming Out Monologues have been striving to offer in the seven years they have run in Calgary.
For organizers of the event, most of whom are former Coming Out Monologues performers, the experience was not only personally transformative, but also the opening up to a large and inclusive community.
Outreach coordinator Alex Naylor performed in 2014 and found surprising catharsis from the experience.
“It happened kind of by accident but it was perfect timing because it was just the previous fall that I had started coming out,” she recalls. “It was a lot more about the people I got to know and the relationships that I built through the process.”
“The performance was really nice and it’s always good for our community, but the process is more valuable.”
Marg, a performer from 2015, describes it this way: “I definitely think the process changed me. For me personally it was just a step moving towards my most authentic self. It definitely moved me forward to where I want to be.”
Karissa Nyman, a performer scheduled to perform at this year’s event, echoes this sentiment. “I think the most important thing about sharing this kind of story is being genuine. Genuine stories connect with an audience when performing and they also give the most accurate representation of the community.
“There is still a lot of struggle around identities that don’t fit into a male/female binary or a gay/straight binary, such as genderqueer, bisexual, or asexual.”
“I also think it’s very important when sharing the story of an individual person to remember and make clear that how one person identifies with a given label does not mean everyone who identifies with that label experiences it exactly the same way. There is a lot of diversity within the queer community and within individual labels for gender or sexuality. Each person’s story is a little bit different.”
Naylor notices that there are less stories of coming out that end on a tragic note. Though those stories still exist, there seems to be a growing community of allies who are creating a safe environment for honest declarations of this kind.
“That’s not everyone, of course, but a lot of the performers last year were really inspiring, how supportive their communities and family have been for them.”
“Attitudes are changing and it’s important not to forget that policies are changing,” she says. “You don’t have to fight as hard to get a GSA (Gender & Sexuality Alliance) in your school, there’s a really growing trend of awareness happening in schools, and any moment of people bringing up inclusion policies really helps.”
This exercise in transformation and education will take place Wednesday March 16 to Friday March 18 at the John Dutton Theatre.AB, Alberta, Coming Out Monologues, John Dutton Theatre, LGBT