Chelsea Asplund/The AS Review
Meghan Pierson stands tall, wearing a soft, white dress that stops just above her knees. A white flower rests in her brown hair. She clutches a small bouquet of orange flowers tight against her chest as she takes a deep breath.
“I am waiting for my cue,” she said.
Pierson is not a bride-to-be standing outside a room full of wedding guests. She is a student, standing before a room full of strangers inside the Viking Union.
As part of the second annual Queer Experience, sponsored by the Associated Students Queer Resource Center on May 12, Pierson and nine others shared their truths and experiences about identifying as part of the queer community. The monologues performed were the product of a four to five-week process, where performers built a community within themselves to explore what they wanted to say, or what they haven’t had a chance to say before.
For Pierson, her truth focused on marriage equality and the struggle for acceptance from her parents. She transported the audience to what would be her wedding day, waiting for her father to walk her down the aisle. But as she reached the altar, Pierson described the person she would choose to spend her life with as male or female, and suddenly, she said that day appeared very different.
“My parents told me I deserve to be loved and cherished, so what if that’s a man or a woman?” she said.
Pierson, who came out to her parents two years ago, said she wanted to focus her truth around the topic of marriage for many reasons. She has been an active member of Equal Rights Washington, a non-profit advocacy group committed to gay couples and their children, and working towards marriage equality.
Beyond the wedding setting, Pierson reiterated throughout her monologue how parents tell their children when they are young they are limitless, and can set their minds to achieve anything and be anyone they want to be.
“Be yourself, except if you’re gay,” she said.
Queer Resource Center Coordinator Josh Foley said the goal was to find a diverse range of stories and identities.
Foley said he can remember how emotional his experience was last year, as he not only facilitated but performed as well. His monologue followed his coming-out process, from growing up with his family to Western today, all of which he said have impacted his identity.
“Coming out never ends. You are constantly coming out every time you go somewhere new, every time you enter a room,” Foley said. “Every time you do anything, you are coming out.”
All members spoke out about very different experiences—from the “monsters” they tried to hide within themselves, how their identities affected their relationships to how they came to decide their preference of pronouns.
Kevin Bennett transported audience members back in time to his experiences standing in front of the mirror, struggling to say the words “I am gay,” out loud. As he stuttered those three words on stage, Bennett slapped himself across the face several times, an action he used to do but had never shared with anyone before.
“I knew it would be a powerful moment, not only for me, but for the audience as well,” he said. “Nothing speaks louder than really exposing yourself and being vulnerable to total strangers and that is exactly what I wanted to do.”
Foley said the QRC hopes to continue sponsoring this event for many years to come. And beyond the experience and journey the cast members all go through, he said he hopes the audience can go take something with them as well.
“I hope people walk away with more of an open mind. A lot of the reasons why people do this process is because of the closed-mindedness,” Foley said. “People didn’t feel safe or felt silenced. I hope it fires people up, most of all.”
Editor’s note: Kevin Bennett is a distributor in the AS Publicity Center. As part of his job, he distributes copies of The AS Review around campus.