BANGOR — “I’m Kylie Cleary. I’m 20 years old. And, I’m not straight.”
That is how the Husson University student began her story Monday evening at a rally in West Market Square to mark National Coming Out Day.
National Coming Out Day is an international event that gives gay, lesbian and bisexual people the opportunity to “come out” to others about their sexuality, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign.
About 100 people from as far away as Augusta and Bar Harbor gathered outside the former Whig & Courier Restaurant & Pub in West Market Square. Many of the same people who attended Monday’s rally spent election night last year in the restaurant as same-sex marriage was repealed.
“A year ago, we were gathered in this place and felt so sad and defeated,” Greg Music, 55, of Bangor said after the rally. “But tonight, you could feel the spirit, the oneness. We’re going to make some changes. What a difference from a year ago.”
Cleary, who grew up in Sidney, was one of several people under 30 who spoke enthusiastically about being open and honest about their sexuality.
“I’m from a Christian background,” she told the crowd. “So when I started liking girls, I thought, I can’t tell my mom. And, if I tell anybody else, they’ll tell my mom.”
Cleary said that friends who already had come out to their parents encouraged Cleary to come out to hers. When she was 15, Cleary told her mother they needed to have a serious talk.
“When I told my mom I thought I was bi[sexual], she said, ‘No you’re not,’” Cleary told a crowd that nodded and laughed as if they had been where she had been. “Then, she said, ‘Give it some time. You’ll grow out of it.’ But, she also said, ‘I’ll love you no matter what.’”
Cleary went to Husson in fall 2008 and the next year helped found an on-campus support group GBLT on RYE, which stands for Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian, Transgender on Real Youth Education. She also was “out” on her Facebook page and knew it was time for another talk with her mother.
“She still loves me,” Cleary said.
Makayla Reed, 16, of Ellsworth came to the rally to promote the Trevor Project, a national 24-hour suicide hot line for GLBT youth.
“We want students to know that they can talk to someone,” she said.
Several recent suicides outside of Maine covered by the national news media have heightened awareness of the issue.
The Bangor rally was sponsored by the Bridge Alliance, a nonprofit group with a goal of having allies, or straight people, work with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals in northern and eastern Maine.