For the past month, 13 Western students and Bellingham community members have been reading, writing, listening, reflecting and learning how to perform and share their experiences regarding their association with the queer community.

The third annual Queer Experience will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, May 11 in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room. Put on by the Associated Students Queer Resource Center, the Queer Experience allows individuals who identify with the queer community in some way to share their truths through monologue performances.

Members of the cast will be sharing their experiences about how the queer community has shaped their lives, said Briana Fitzpatrick, AS QRC assistant coordinator and Queer Experience facilitator.

The Queer Experience, started two years ago by former QRC coordinator and assistant coordinator Elle Peters and Josh Foley, and was initially a performance that gave people an opportunity to speak about their coming-out experience, Fitzpatrick said. Last year, it became a little more inclusive to other queer experiences, but was still coming-out focused. This year, there has been a clear transition.

“Now it’s definitely transformed to include any aspect of someone’s identity, and the intersections of that with the queer identity,” Fitzpatrick said. “Basically, any truth someone wants to share can be included in the Queer Experience.”

A few topics covered by the Queer Experience cast include being part of different identities, not fitting into the queer community and suffering from emotional abuse in relationships.

“I’m really glad now that I auditioned because I realize that I have so many obstacles that used to hold me back like public speaking and reclaiming my words because I’ve always had problems [with] not being confident in what I say,” said Derick Reinhardt, Western sophomore and Queer Experience cast member. “Now being in this process, I feel like I have the strength and confidence to be powerful with my words and get my point across.”

For Sara Sigle, Western sophomore and Queer Experience cast member, the event was about self-discovery.
“I originally auditioned because I wanted to find the words to explain my sexual identity,” she said.

To prepare for the performance, the cast met twice a week since the beginning of spring quarter, Fitzpatrick said. The preparation included workshop-style exercises like interactive icebreakers, article readings and watching videos. It later focused on getting to know fellow cast members, free writing and deeper-level icebreakers. The whole process manifested into more sharing opportunities and intense exercises, Fitzpatrick said.

The Queer Experience is not only beneficial for its cast members, but it also allows its audience to hear another perspective and learn what it is like for these individuals to live, Fitzpatrick said. Listening to the cast members speak about their experiences could potentially inspire audience members to discover or realize different aspects about themselves.

“People who identify as other than queer should go because they’re going to get the chance to see and hear and learn from other people, which might help them understand what it’s like,” Fitzpatrick said.

During the performance, the cast is discussing experiences that they have lived through, as well as what they face on a daily basis, Reinhardt said.

During the emotional preparation process, many of the cast members were greatly impacted by the experience and have found their voices, Fitzpatrick said. She is looking forward to each participant’s time to take the stage and reclaim their identity and their voice because so many have been silenced. But even after the performances, the cast members need to retain their experience, Fitzpatrick said.

“[I want them] to believe in themselves and remember what they’ve learned here and what they’ve discovered about themselves, and not forget that as they go on with their lives,” Fitzpatrick said. “I know it’s easy for people to say things and say they’re going to do these things, but it’s harder for them to actually do that in real life as time goes on…I want them to not forget who they were in the Queer Experience.”

Western students should attend the event because what is being discussed affects everyone, Sigle said. Human issues will be talked about, not just queer issues.

“Everyone is affected by queer people; queer people exist all over the place,” Sigle said. “Sometimes you don’t know it, sometimes you do know it, but their experiences are important for everyone to be aware of. [The] breadth of experiences is also really important – that it’s not just gay, bi and straight. There’s lots of identities represented on our cast this year.”