VOICES! showcases acceptance
Shimmering candles adorned small round tables covered with blue and yellow cloths created a warm and welcoming atmosphere in the Student Union Thursday.
Student and Campus Life (SCL), Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) and University Program Board’s (UPB) new series VOICES! featured three local artists Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Aakash Kishore and Audrey Kuo, who discussed queer identity issues and encouraged students not to be ashamed of their sexual preferences.
“We [the gay community] are not just looking for mere tolerance and existence,” Kato-Kiriyama said. “We’re looking for wholehearted appreciation, love and support.”
The event attracted more than 60 students in honor of the National Coming Out Day (NCOD), an annual day for those who identify themselves with the LGBTQIA community.
First up was Kato-Kiriyama, who engaged the audience in a lively performance about coming out to friends and family. By reading her poetry aloud, Kato-Kiriyama emphasized the importance of having a good support system and a sense of collective identity.
She said tolerance can be achieved by being honest about sexual preference and by championing gay and lesbian rights. Kato-Kiriyama ended her performance by encouraging the audience not to be afraid to give into their desires.
“Say yes to desire and to queerness,” she said. “And say yes to the unrelenting curiosity between us.”
The second performer, Kuo, spoke much more calmly about the spectrum of fear and dismay the process of coming out may elicit.
“I’m always scared that this one specific fact of my identity might be the final fact that people consider about me,” Kuo said. “I don’t want to be reduced down to stereotypes of what it means to be gay.”
Kuo admitted that expressing one’s fears and dismay through the act of spoken words in front of an audience involves a lot of soul bearing. However, she said it is a great way to connect with one’s audience and even one’s self.
She emphasized that love is the same for all people regardless of sexual orientation.
“At the end of the day, I’m still in love,” Kuo said. “No matter my sexual preference.”
Finally, Kishore took the stage and began his performance by reciting a poem about his experience as a Girl Scout.
Through his poetry, Kishore addressed the ups and downs of being transgender, receiving laughs from the audience for his endearingly shy personality.
“I was freaked out coming here,” Kishore said. “But this is so important. Finding yourself is part of hearing somebody else perform.”
As part of the Q-and-A session following the performances, Kato-Kiriyama encouraged audience members to grab pens and papers and write a letter addressed to their inner voice. The writing exercise emphasized the performance’s idea of finding one’s identity through spoken words.
Ari Luna, a senior athletic training major, has been with her girlfriend Sam LaPerla, a junior English major at Cal State Fullerton, for almost two years and said Chapman offers a good support system.
“There will always be people that don’t like who you are,” Luna said. “But Chapman is good at building that necessary sense of community. “
LaPerla said a lot of minority groups are too afraid to speak up and demand more events that focus on controversial topics.
The next event in the VOICES! series will be held Oct. 24 in the Student Union and will feature several stand-up comedians, including local comedian Jenny Yang, who will focus on racism and stereotypes.