At an early age, Darnel Forro knew he was gay but it was not easy for him to accept that he was gay.
“There was a lot of denial, self-hate, guilt, pain and a lot of mystery that came with the process,” said Forro, a social work instructor at School of Arts and Sciences at RDC. “I come from a religious family and I started hating myself for being gay.”
Like Forro, many LGBTQ community representatives took to the microphone on Wednesday afternoon and shared their coming out stories for the National Coming Out Day. The speaker series event was hosted by the Students’ Association of Red Deer College.
Marian Young, acting president and vice president operations at the association said it’s an opportunity to spread hope and be inclusive on campus.
“People need to feel welcome, included and safe so they need to hear from people, not necessarily older [people] but elders [of the LGBTQ community],” said Young.
The association invited organizations like Central Alberta Pride Society and Trans and Non-Binary Aid Society (TANAS) and other RDC groups to the event.
Shannon Humphrey, events committee co-chair with Central Alberta Pride Society, said coming out is a process and individuals come out at different times to different people and in different ways.
Humphrey, who grew up in a small town, shared her story.
“I knew it was a thing to be gay but I didn’t realize it was a thing for me to be gay,” she said.
Serge Gingras, Central Alberta Pride Society chairperson was among the speakers. He was an instructor at RDC from 1985 to 2015. He said in the early years during his tenure, he became a main resource on campus for students in the LGBTQ community.
“Students were looking for guidance and didn’t know where to go and overtime it developed into a small group of people that became pride on campus and that became the channel for students to find out more on what was available in the community,” said Gingras.
He said students need to feel safe and talk to someone without being judged.
Bobbi-Jo L’Hirondelle, director at TANAS said there’s a need for support in the community. The agency receives calls for support from Red Deer and the surround area like Sylvan Lake. The organizations provide a safe place for people and services like peer to peer support and transition materials to help transgender and non-binary individuals be who they would like to be.