Out of the closet and down the aisle

In Communities /

From a small town to the Village

I grew up in Sterling, a town in rural Ontario with a population of about 2,000 people. It wasn’t the most accepting place, to say the least. A group of friends and I were once chased down the streets of Belleville, the closest “big” city because of our sexual orientation, and our city counsellor once implored citizens to drive gays out of public parks by going into the bushes with baseball bats. It was dangerous to walk down the street if you were gay, or if people suspected that you were.

I left Sterling in 1998 to study at Ryerson, being so close to the Church-Wellesley Village, was exciting and liberating. I was amazed by how much I was able to grow when I surrounded myself with people who accepted who I was as a person.

Anyone who is struggling because of his or her sexuality should know that, as sex columnist Dan Savage said in his video, it does get better. There are people out there you can talk to, and who will love you for who you are. — As told to Allyssia Alleyne

Darren Cooney,
Broadcast journalism, class of 2004
President of RyeSAC, 2002-2003

Finding my princess charming

When I first started to realize I wasn’t like the other girls at my suburban high school, I shoved the idea that I could be anything other than straight out of my mind. I didn’t know how I’d able to live the life the fairy tales had promised me or find people who could understand what I was feeling.

I met my first girlfriend at a Ryerson party. Neither of us had admitted we were lesbians, but we were drawn to each other. She never did come out, but I decided it was finally time to face who I really was.

In a matter of days I came out to everyone in my life. I told myself, “if they don’t accept me for who I am, I don’t need them in my life.”

To my surprise, not a single person was angry, hateful or even disappointed. Even my religious 90-year-old great-grandmother was supportive, saying, “as long as you’re happy, I’m happy.”

I won’t deny that I have faced homophobia as an out gay individual, but I’ve realized that the people harboring hate are in the wrong, not me. I’ve now been out for two years and my life has only gotten better. I’ve met the girl of my dreams and we’re engaged to be married.

The fairy tale I’d imagined for myself when I was a child is now a reality, the only exception being that I’m spending my life with a beautiful princess instead of a handsome prince.

Alyssa Garrison,
Second-year journalism student

Helping the new generation

Though it isn’t always clear at first glance, the LGBT faculty at Ryerson is very strong.

If students are interested in connecting with someone for advice or for support, they should check to see if any of their professors’ doors have Positive Space ally stickers displayed. Not everyone who has this sticker is queer, but they are all approachable and looking to help.

Feel free to drop by my office. I’m certainly willing to talk to students not as a counsellor, but as a faculty member that is queer.

It’s important that students realize how many people there are waiting to help them. It’s not always easy growing up queer, but it’s easier when you have people there to help you through it.

I think that Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project and its message show that it only takes one person to change someone’s life. Members of the queer community might need to look a bit harder, but there’s always someone there looking to support them. — As told to Allyssia Alleyne

Doreen Fumia,
Sociology professor

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