Being LGBT: Panel discusses perspectives on “real” life after college

DyAnna Grondahl

The College of St. Scholastica is a bustling meeting place of individuals and individual stories. In an effort to show how “all stories are welcome here,” the Intercultural Center recently hosted a panel to address questions about being LGBT and “real life” problems, like finding a job, spirituality and family.

Panelists included: Megan Perry-Spears, Dean of Students; Chris Dolan, Attorney and Chair of the CSS Board of Trustees; Tyler Driscoll, Administrator in the Social Work department; and Bret Amundson, Director of General Education and Choir Program.

Perry-Spears identifies as a lesbian and said she came out in college. She is also a Quaker, which, according to her, is a religious denomination that is “down with the gays.” She said she made choice to be out right away because of other privileges and because being out meant no one could use her sexuality as a weapon against her.

She said she always slips her sexual orientation in during last speech of Welcome Weekend so there are no secrets and so new students know she’s an ally.

Another face which may be slightly less familiar is Chris Dolan, the chair of the CSS Board of Trustees. He, his husband Ryan, and daughter Olivia, reside in Maple Grove. The CSS alum told his story of coming to terms with his sexuality while attending CSS.

“I came out actually maybe 100 yards that way in 2000 during my junior year,” said Dolan, chuckling and gesturing toward the entrance to Tower Hall.

Dolan said he received help from a sister from CSS. She was essential in his journey as a Catholic gay man. He spoke of her fondly, saying she told him that Jesus loves him for who he is.

As far as Dolan’s career is concerned, being gay has been a net positive. He said that when going into the legal profession, many firms see homosexuality as a good attribute, which isn’t necessarily applicable to all occupations. Dolan said that sometimes he gets so comfortable with his lifestyle, he sometimes forgets that for some people being gay is something new and interesting, or even a cause for discomfort.

“My gay life experience is changing diapers, as a parent,” said Dolan with a laugh.

He shared a story where one of his colleagues approached him and said, “I just don’t know how to talk about Ryan. I just don’t know.”

Dolan told the attendees that his colleague had never met a gay person before and hadn’t known how to talk about a same-sex spouse. Dolan led the man in a conversation explaining it works just as it does for heterosexuals.

Tyler Driscoll, a transgender man who works in the social work department, and his sister Heidi Blunt, melted hearts with their stories.

Blunt, an ally, served as a moderator for the event saying, “Having a trans brother is one of my favorite things.”

Driscoll told his story of transitioning. He came out as trans almost 10 years ago while working for a large company. He said coming out as trans has more logistics to it than coming out as homosexual. He said he wasn’t worried about whether or not people would accept him or if he would get fired, but he wondered, “If I come out, does anyone know what the hell that means?” While working for the male-dominated industry, Driscoll said he was welcomed into the boys club and realized what male privilege was like.

A year after his transition, Driscoll was fired. He said he likes to think it was because of the recession, but isn’t sure because one of his managers had not been entirely supportive of his transition. Driscoll did not come out at his next job.

Bret Amundson said he came out during a time where homosexuality was becoming more acceptable. Amundson talked about some of the dynamics of being gay in his profession.

“In some ways, I’m always coming out to my class,” said Amundson. “It’s interesting, because you don’t know how people are going to respond… It took me a little while to not be guarded about that.”

Amundson said that he decided to be himself in class in order to open doors for other people.

“There was a moment where I decided I am going to be who I am in class,” said Amundson. “And hopefully serve as a positive role model for what people see as a gay man.”