The Coming-Out Monologues: A Platform for Aggieland’s LGBTQIA+ Community
Lights, camera, action! Two professors from the College of Liberal Arts are co-directing “The Coming-Out Monologues.”
By Mia Mercer ‘23
Even in the 21st century, many members of the LGBTQIA+ community struggle to find the voice and the platform they need to come out. In an effort to provide a safe space to retell their personal stories, and acknowledge the existing LGBTQIA+ community at Texas A&M University, “The Coming Out Monologues” (TCOM) was created.
Free to the public, TCOM is an annual story-telling performance made up of current and former students, faculty, staff, and community members who identify as LGBTQIA+ or as LGBTQIA+ allies. The event allows participants to share their personal experiences in an encouraging environment. This year’s event will take place live on Zoom Friday, April 2, from 7-9pm. TCOM 2021 is co-directed by Kris May, associate editor at the World Shakespeare Bibliography in the Department of English, and Jesse O’Rear, visiting assistant professor of performance studies.
“It’s important for the people who perform to have a supportive space and a community there to support them as they tell their stories,” May said. “I think it’s also important for this campus, simply because this campus has a really troubled and complicated history with LGBTQIA+ people. Things have certainly improved, but not without a lot of difficult moments and a lot of work from a lot of people.”
Inspired by “The Vagina Monologues,” TCOM was created on April 18, 2007, by Nancy Tubbs ‘93, an English alumna who now works as the director of the LGBTQ Resource Center at the University of California Riverside. It wasn’t until 2010 that Lowell Kane, former director of the LGBTQ+ Pride Center (known as the GLBT Resource Center in 2010), started TCOM at Texas A&M.
“TCOM was first part of the National Day of Silence which is on April 18 every year. Students on middle school, high school, and college campuses across the country stay silent for a day to raise awareness for anti-LGBTQIA+ bullying,” May explained. “At the end of the school day on the Day of Silence, students come together to break the silence by sharing their stories, which is exactly what TCOM first aimed at doing.”
Everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community has a unique experience with coming out, and these differences are celebrated through TCOM.
“We have people coming back to present again, but their stories of coming out may be different,” May said. “This reinforces the message that coming out is not something that you do just once, but is something queer people have to do, most of us, everyday. Although all of us have our individual experiences, TCOM helps highlight what the larger queer experience is like.”
Both May and O’Rear joined the production of TCOM in hopes of providing LGBTQIA+ students, faculty, and staff a place to express themselves and find the support they need in their journeys. O’Rear said he hopes attendees will join them in celebrating the courage of their performers, who have gone through the often harrowing experience of coming out to family, friends, teachers, colleagues, and other members of their local communities.
“Learning that the Pride Center hosted an annual performance event which invited students, staff, faculty, and alumni to tell the stories of their coming out experiences was one of the things that most excited me about beginning to work here,” O’Rear said. “The stories are also full of life and personality; each performer gives a part of themself with the delivery of their monologue, and I hope that attendees will hold space to meet these brilliant, funny, charming, and proud members of our campus community.”
Not only does this event give a voice to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, but it also encourages a more inclusive LGBTQIA+ supportive campus.
“This event is one of the most highly visible things for LGBTQIA+ people on our campus as far as the amount of publicity it receives and the amount of people who attend, and queer visibility on campus is incredibly important,” May said. “Having this event every year on a regular basis is a way of saying ‘we’re still here, we haven’t gone away, here are some of our stories.’ Sharing this platform is a way to correct or revise the picture that a lot of people have of Texas A&M and the Bryan College Station community while also exemplifying the diversity that is present here.”
Anyone can participate in TCOM, and anyone who is not performing is encouraged to support the performers by being a receptive audience member. Whether their stories are humorous, poignant, serious, or heartbreaking, TCOM provides participants with a space full of support as they retell their individual experiences. It’s a huge step towards helping the LGBTQIA+ community at Texas A&M.
“In any time and place, I think that it’s important to highlight and celebrate the existence and experiences of LGBTQIA+ people,” O’Rear said. “With the stress, disconnect, anxiety, grief, and sadness caused by the global events of the past year, this feels even more palpable than before. I’m glad that we are making space to celebrate and show appreciation for life, while holding communal space to mourn what we may have lost.”