Coming out in October

LGBT students and their straight allies celebrate Coming Out Month and discuss the resources available to them on campus.

Ginger Woessner mustered up the courage earlier this month to utter three difficult words to her mother: “Mom, I’m transgender."

Many are following Woessner’s lead. October is National Coming Out Month. At Syracuse University, it has grown into an annual celebration of owning one’s sexual identity - not only for gay, lesbian, or transgender people, but for straight allies as well.

"For every person who is out, there are probably two or three who aren't."
- Adrea Jaehnig, LGBT Resource Center director

The LGBT Resource Center and the campus community are working to make October a month of acceptance by hosting events and speakers who share their stories. Woessner said SU's supportive climate inspired her to come out.

Woessner used to go out of her way to hide her feelings about identifying as a woman, despite having the physical make-up of a male.

“I always went through great lengths to hide it,” said Woessner, an SU junior studying political science. “I used to play football in high school.  I was one of the ‘star linebackers.’ I would try to convince myself and others that I was a man, but I always knew I wasn’t.”

When Woessner came to Syracuse, things changed.

“Everyone has just been so supportive,” Woessner said. “Before I came here, if someone said I’d be making the progress I’m making now, I would’ve said they’re crazy.”

Woessner is already “out” here at Syracuse.  She plans to start dressing full time as a woman soon. Much of this has to do with the fact that she has found a safe haven at the LGBT Resource Center.

“I have a family here, I have people to talk to,” Woessner said. “People see me for who I am, and that’s what has helped the most.”

Coming Out Month also led SU junior Danielle Sutton to tell her friends and family that she is bisexual.

"Everybody's celebrating it and making it a positive thing," Sutton said. "It really makes me want to come out and be included in it, too."

Adrea Jaehnig, the director of the LGBT Resource Center since its creation in 2001, explained how the events of Coming Out Month are designed to encourage and comfort those who are contemplating coming out.

“The overall visibility of the events and activities that take place sends a message for people who aren’t out -- that there are other people like you, and there are resources and information for you to connect with and other people to connect with,” Jaehnig said. “For every person who is out, there are probably two or three who aren’t."



SU junior Ginger Woessner, who plans to start dressing full time as a woman soon, applies lip gloss in a mirror.

The Resource Center


The LGBT Resource Center is at the heart of these events, and offers educational resources for students such as pamphlets and books.

Woessner was armed with pamphlets and booklets on coming out and transgender issues when she came out to her mom. She said the only good thing that came out of it was that her mother took those with her.

“It didn’t go over well at all,” Woessner said of coming out to her mother. “Her eyes watered up and asked me if that was just a fancy word for being gay.”

Woessner explained what she meant by “transgender,” but her mother was not accepting of it. She left shortly after the conversation. 

Woessner said the coming out process is a lifelong experience. Pride Union President John Crandall explained the process of coming out as one that is constantly occurring.

“I think coming out is a really long, continuing, never-ending process. Sure, I came out to my mom when I was 16, but every day when I interact with people...even if they can tell that I’m gay, there has to be a discussion about it,” Crandall said. “I think part of what’s important about this month is it deals a lot with self-exploration and the constant struggle to negotiate who you are with the public.”

Coming Out Month

Jaehnig agreed that Coming Out Month is obviously not the only time people choose to come out.  He said it’s a long process that takes time.

“I don’t think there is one way to come out, or one time you come out,” Jaehnig said. “Coming out is certainly a personal process, but it’s also a constant process of negotiation.”

The events of Coming Out Month are meant to jump-start the process, Crandall said.  For example, the Oct. 12 “Coming Out Stories” event was pivotal and moving for those who participated, Crandall said.  During the event, students listened to personal accounts of the coming out experience and had an opportunity to share their own.

“You walk through the door, you share that story with us, and then you come back into the audience and join us again,” Crandall said. “That’s a beginning of something. That’s why we do Coming Out Month at the beginning of the year, and that’s how we start everything.”

While continuing this process of coming out, Woessner said she keeps moving forward because she knows she is still welcome with her family at Syracuse.

“I’m still comfortable here,” Woessner said. “The center has been wonderful for me. I need to get used to having a new family, because I really don’t have one right now."

Ignore Sean.

Ginger, you go girl! Keep holding your head high. Lots of people (like me) support you and your happiness, even if you don't know us.


in my opinion, this should not even be legal.

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