Miami alumni hope their perseverance inspires others struggling to find themselves
By Jesús F. Jiménez, assistant director of digital content
Every person in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum has their own personal coming out story. While some struggle to find acceptance, those who have found support share their stories in hopes of inspiring others who may be facing similar struggles.
In honor of LGBTQIA History Month and National Coming Out Day, which is celebrated annually on Oct. 11, four Miami alumni share their experience coming out.
“The reality is that being out saves lives,” said Joy Snow ’17, division coordinator at the Ohio State University College of Public Health.
“When you’re young and you’re queer especially in areas that might not have a supportive home, you don’t know that that’s a thing you can do or you’re outright told that it’s not. And having someone that’s out and says, ‘This is who I am, this is what I went through and I would do it 1,000 times over’ is absolutely instrumental.”
The 1809 LGBTQ+ Alumni Group is always looking for alumni to get involved. Join the 1809 LGBTQ+ Alumni Group to foster support for LGBTQ+ students. Contact Ellie Witter with questions at zabielec@MiamiOH.edu or 513-529-8521.
Cherise D. Hairston ’90
Professional coach, Inner Align Design, LLC
“The year might’ve been 1983 or 84, and The Eurythmics song “Sweet Dreams” came out, and the video in particular of Annie Lenox, she had on this male suit and a tie and she had the spiky orange hair – and great song, one of my favorite groups, and she was beautiful and it was this wonderful blend and mixture of gender fluidity, of male and female, and I thought she was beautiful and I felt, I’m not sure if attraction was the right word for me at the time, but I thought she was beautiful and I really resonated with what I saw in that video. And I thought that was ultimately how I put a label on, if I’m attracted to her than that makes me who I am. For me, I really pin my coming out story verbally, saying that out loud to myself mostly to that time in my life. I certainly can look back prior to that, and while I would not identify that with sexual attraction, because I’m not sure when that comes about for any person, but certainly, as I look back to earlier times, I would have to say, obviously, in third, fourth, fifth grade, that liking and being around people of my same gender, sex, whatever the right word is, to me it’s all fluid and how I think about all that, but I certainly would look at it to be even earlier than that.”
Joy Snow ’17
Division coordinator at the Ohio State University College of Public Health
“Kind of the first hint that I was queer in some way, something that a lot of trans people experience is called dysphoria, especially gender dysphoria or body dysphoria. Where it feels like something’s wrong. That’s the only way I can describe it. It’s so hard to really relate, because it’s not a depression, it’s not an anxiety, it’s just this inherent sense of wrongness. And, so like, I would grow up with that, and that’s something I remember experiencing as young as 8 or 9, where I feel like a fraud, I feel like I’m lying to everyone, I feel like I’m not who I am. But I didn’t know how to express that. I didn’t know what that meant to me. I had always been into feminine stuff, I liked dresses – fun thing that I did a lot, I would go on YouTube and watch gender transformation videos of drawings of people just transitioning from a boy to a girl, and I watched that for hours – which is totally a thing that straight cis boys do. Those were some of the hints that I had to for myself, and I remember always thinking that I would just kind of grow up and have this hidden cache of girls clothes and that was just going to be my awful terrible secret, and I was going to be this kind of closeted crossdresser. When I grew up, in early 2000s and the 90s, especially comedy, trans women were not treated with the most respect if they were trans women at all and not just guys in dresses. I was very unsure of what to do with myself, and I ended up dating a girl who had kind of mentioned to me, ‘Are you just trans? Are you just transgender?’ I didn’t know what that meant, and I looked it up and I went, ‘Yup. That makes sense.’”
Mathew Hall ’11
Assistant director of prevention and outreach services at SUNY Brockport
“I certainly knew that I wasn’t the same as my brothers. Being one of four sons in my family, I knew I was not the same from early on, maybe four or five years of age. But I didn’t understand what that meant, or what exactly was different. It wasn’t until I found the independence to go to the libraries and dig into literature and current events that I began to be able to put a name to what I was feeling. And, I remember coming across novels in the library, this was sort of at the advent of wide access to the internet and finding AOL chat rooms for teenagers who were confused or questioning or in the process of coming out. I probably would’ve been in middle school when I sort of settled and felt comfortable with this idea that this otherness that I felt, this separateness that I felt, was about being a queer person. And, even though I didn’t say it out loud at the time, I understood it to be my reality. Prior to coming out to my parents, I remember coming out to a group of friends while we were playing a card game in the lunchroom just a few weeks before I came out to my parents, and there was a sense of euphoria, because after I came out as gay, a friend of mine came out as bi and there was this moment of collective realization and collective euphoria and collective excitement. We didn’t know what it meant or what we were going to do with this collective realization, but it felt like, probably the most authentic moment we’ve had with each other in that we were more complicated versions of ourselves, but also more genuine and authentic versions of ourselves.”
Tina Gregory MHA BSN ’10
RN, former associate chief nursing officer
“I had just gotten out of a marriage to a man, and all my life I grew up in the Catholic Church and it was made very clear to me when I was younger that being gay was not what was meant to be, especially with a Catholic upbringing. And there was just something, at that time, being 32 and just reflecting on life and getting out of a relationship and seeing life and death every day, there was just something in me that said, ‘Life is too short to live for others.’ That’s probably my quote. Life is too short to live how others think you should live it. You have to live life how you feel and think to live it, and be authentic to yourself. I think that was a huge turning point in my life. I had met someone on the fire department at the time, a woman, and we developed into a friendship, and ultimately into a relationship. When I knew this is what I wanted to do, my family is very important to me, I’m very close to my mom and dad, they were divorced by then, but I had a mom, a dad, a sister, a brother and I also had a daughter from a marriage. At the time, she was eight years old, so there were people that I felt needed to know if I was going to live my authentic life, I needed to come out to them. I’m the kind of person, in my family, if you tell one person, they’re going to find out within the next day or so, so I basically scheduled a coming out day, made plans to go to my mom’s house first, and I went there and told my mom and my stepdad, they were very understanding. People change with times and my mom, basically was like, ‘I just want you to be happy.’ She had an inkling anyway, probably even when I was younger, and that’s probably what spurred some of the conversations about how life’s supposed to go. But she’s been wonderful ever since. I was finished there, had some tears, I mean it’s very emotional. Then, I went straight to my dad’s house, I told him, and I was pretty nervous about my dad, I don’t know why, just from some things that had happened in the past, and so, I told him, and I was just holding my breath and he was like, ‘That’s fine. Whatever. I just want you to be happy.’”