Coming home by coming out

By Sean Sullivan

This year, scripts have been tossed out as performers draw on their personal stories and experiences for the University of Calgary’s fourth annual Coming Out Monologues, presented by U of C’s Leadership and Student Engagement from March 13–16.

The Coming Out Monologues, inspired by Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, began at the University of California, Riverside in 2007. It was picked up by Texas A&M University in 2008, and soon many cities in Canada and the United States began hosting their own events. 

It was the sense of community that appealed to Nolan Hill, the event’s social media co-ordinator, when he attended the Coming Out Monologues at the U of C last year. He found the performances inspiring during a time when he was working to accept himself as part of the LGBTQ community.

“The monologues are a celebration of diversity, community and individuals as who they are, no matter what letter of the alphabet you identify with,” says Hill, who will be performing at the Coming Out Monologues for the first time this year. “It’s just an exciting opportunity to be able to come together with other individuals in the community and be able to celebrate who you are without having to worry about any sort of judgement or scrutiny.”

Hill’s monologue, titled “D(i)-fferent,” is about his experience dealing with teasing, bullying and name calling while growing up, and how he never identified with the names he was called.

“Identifying as bisexual is where I ended up,” says Hill. “I realized that it is something different — it’s different than the norm, it’s different than straight, it’s different than what I was called throughout elementary, junior high and high school — but that difference is OK.”

Daniel Sadler, another first-time performer, says he wanted to perform something not too serious while being very relatable, and developed a story about coming out to his brother. 

“It started out as kind of important to me in discovering myself and building the community but then my family found out and made it a big deal,” says Sadler.

His extended family is traveling from Edmonton to watch him perform.

“I’m only on stage for 10 minutes but they decided it’s worth a three-hour drive to come see me,” says Sadler. “They want to support me in this because it’s their first chance to try and understand what it meant to me to come out.”

Coming Out Monologues co-ordinator Aleesha Bray says that a lot of audience members came up to her after the show last year and told her it felt like coming home.

“I thought that was the most positive feedback we could possibly get,” Bray says.

Last year, the event had performers ranging in age from 17 to 76, and this year is no different.

“There are lots of different ages and experiences,” says Bray. “I think that really changes a lot of the audience’s perceptions.”

This year, the Coming Out Monologues have a total of 25 performers all performing original monologues, which Bray says is a really powerful and engaging experience.

“Our performances are really different too,” says Bray. “We have spoken word, we have song, we have dance, we have a dad and daughter doing a monologue about the dad coming out to her when she was a teenager and then years later her coming out to him. We really have quite a variety of different performances.”

Since both evenings of the Coming Out Monologues sold out in advance last year, an additional night of performers has been added, along with the expansion of the event to include an education talk-back panel on March 16. The panel, hosted at the Taylor Family Digital Library’s Gallery Hall at 11:00 a.m., is focused on inclusive language. Bray says the panel is aimed at people in education, social work, medicine, sociology and psychology — students who will be working as counsellors, teachers and educators — so they can recognize discrimination or unintentionally discriminatory language.

The panel speakers will include Hill as a U of C student representative, as well as U of C professor Dawn Johnston, LGBTQ youth support specialist at Calgary Sexual Health Centre Lee Allard and sexual and gender minority youth education co-ordinator Nick Moore.

The Coming Out Monologues will be performed at the Boris Roubakine Recital Hall, with tickets costing $10. Half of the proceeds from the shows will go to the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, helping to foster the city’s diverse and growing LGBTQ community. 

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