“Sometimes you have to go to the administrative level to change the atmosphere of a graduate department,” said medical student Perry Tsai. “The medical school here at UNC is very welcoming though. We are very lucky for that.”
Rebecca Balter, who said she plans to work as a teaching assistant, found the discussion helpful.
“It was nice hearing others’ insights and knowing there are those like yourself struggling with similar issues.”
Discussion leader Danny Depuy, who is also the assistant director of the LGBTQ, said Coming Out in the Classroom is different from the center’s Safe Zone trainings.
Safe Zone trainings are four-hour-long workshops in which participants learn key concepts and strategies on how to be an ally. Wednesday’s discussion was shorter and smaller in scope.
Balter said she appreciates the Saze Zone trainings.
“It is comforting to see your advisor or RA have a (Safe Zone) placard, so you know you can speak to them openly about your sexuality,” she said. “A lot of times when you say you have a girlfriend, people don’t hear anything else you say for the rest of the day.”
The roundtable’s aim was to seek ways to avoid awkwardness in the classroom and how to address left-field comments. Students suggested options for handling ignorance effectively and positively.
Participants shared their personal experiences and established methods to identify themselves as an ally.
They agreed that it is ideal to come out as soon as possible so people don’t automatically assume you are heterosexual.
They said the problem often lies in the way people change their perceptions of recently outed people rather than the coming out process itself.
And they added that one of the best tricks is to drop the news casually.
Balter said she makes subtle mentions of her girlfiend to let people know about her sexuality.
“For those who are considering coming out, a lot of the reaction depends on how comfortable and confident you are,” Tsai said.