National Coming Out Day: LGBTQ+ Silverswords Share Their Stories


LGBTQ+ members of the Chaminade community shared their experiences coming out. (From left to right: Marlon Francisco, Pono Riddle, and Emily “Em” Ramirez Miranda).

Today is National Coming Out Day, when members of the LGBTQ+ community celebrate their identity and take pride in who they are. “Coming out of the closet” is a common term among LGBTQ+ people that refers to becoming publicly open with others about their sexuality or gender identity. Additionally, October is LGBTQ+ History Month, which intersects with Honolulu Pride Month. 

At Chaminade University, it’s possible some members within the community may feel hesitant with being out given the religious context of the institution. I know I was, and I kept relatively quiet about being bisexual for my first year as a Silversword for fear of scrutiny. I only felt safer in saying my sexuality openly once I met friends who were also LGBTQ+. One of the purposes of National Coming Out Day is for the LGBTQ+ community to come together and recognize the power in coming out. To celebrate this awareness day, I sat down with some fellow members of the LGBTQ+ Silversword community who shared their experiences in coming out.

Pono Riddle is a 2018 graduate of the Psychology program at Chaminade who now serves as the academic advisor for the School of Nursing and Health Professions. He was born in Portland, Oregon, but grew up in the Mililani and Wahiawa area of Oahu. He first questioned his potential as gay in middle school. Now that he’s in his mid-20’s, he knows that’s what he leans toward most. Despite his overall content with identifying as gay, Riddle pays more attention to how he connects rather than the gender of who he’s connecting with. 

“For me, it just depended on who I connected with. It didn’t matter if it was male, female, whoever,” Riddle said.

Riddle came out sometime last year, and described it as a little scary. The first person he told was a close friend, who accepted it, much to his relief. He went on to say every person he’s ever told met him with safety and support, whether they be close friends or family. Probably the most important person he came out to was his mother. 

“She was like, “Oh, okay, I always knew,” and it’s like parents always say they always knew,” Riddle said. “And then it was one of those intense heart-to-hearts of, “You know I always love you no matter what, and I want to to be happy,” and then of course the waterworks came. I’m a little bit more reserved about it, even now, but I’m really comfortable being in my element and I feel like I’m more myself when I can identify and just embrace it.”

When asked if he faced any barriers to coming out, he mentioned concerns of completely changing how he was perceived by those he loved, which is a common fear among those hesitant to come out. He also mentioned he grew up heavily involved with Catholicism.

“It’s funny because my whole small kid time revolved around the church,” Riddle said. “Of course there’s that stigma of you know, “The bible doesn’t say this, and the bible doesn’t say that,” but God loves everybody right? How is that gonna measure against what everyone else is saying or doing or thinking just because they grew up in the cradle Catholic perspective of man and woman, period?”

Since he doesn’t typically put himself out there about being gay, he plans to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month by supporting his other friends in the community and using resources to educate himself further. 

“No matter what, you are loved by whatever and whoever is closest to you,” Riddle said. “There are people and there are resources available for you to take advantage of. Join support groups, or start a support group, since it’s all about starting the conversation, right? Be yourself. Be your true authentic self, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

While Riddle was fortunate enough to control his coming out experience, not all people can say the same. Sometimes in the LGBTQ+ community, members are “outed” before they get the chance to decide for themselves. This is when someone finds out that a person is LGBTQ+ and discloses that person’s identity to other people without their consent.

Marlon Francisco is a bisexual second-year Forensic Science major from Waipahu who was outed by his neighbor toward the end of his freshman year in high school. 

Francisco had a boyfriend at the time who would visit him and drop things off at his house. One day, his neighbor caught him sharing a kiss with his boyfriend and told his parents.

“Weight was lifted off for sure, but also it was honestly kinda scary,” Francisco said. “Sometimes you’re in the moment, and you don’t know people are watching you. Which now I know, be on the lookout, you know, but I didn’t know how my parents would react. They were like, pretty chill I guess, but relationship-wise with my parents they’re a lot better than they were when I first had all that happen.”

Francisco goes on to mention his mother warned him once she learned the news that others may still be less supportive. 

“When she first came to talk to me, my mom, she was like, “Oh my god, be aware of your surroundings. You know people aren’t okay with it but I still love you I think,”” he said. “But now overall it’s all support.“

He advised others who are considering coming out to just focus on themselves.

“Take your time, take it slow,” Francisco said. “At the end of the day, no one else’s opinion really matters but your own.”

Francisco doesn’t have specific plans to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month or National Coming Out Day due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but would be open to a small gathering with close friends. 

Emily “Em” Ramirez Miranda is also a bisexual Silversword. She is a third-year Environmental Science major from Hawai’i Kai who didn’t begin questioning her sexuality until about two years ago.

She met other friends who were out and suggested to her that she might be LGBTQ+ also. According to Ramirez Miranda, her mom had a hunch about her being into girls due to her obsession with American actress Emma Watson and other female celebrities growing up. After a year of pondering her sexuality, she came to the conclusion she was bisexual and came out shortly thereafter. Ramirez Miranda has been out for one year since then, and recounted the feeling as exciting. 

“It feels like I can truly be myself,” Ramirez Miranda said. “There were times where I kept denying the fact of who I really was, and I just had so much going through my head. There were nights where I wanted to sleep but couldn’t because I didn’t know how the reactions [of others] would be. Until I finally became open, it was just like no one could stop me, and I could finally be the true person that I am.”

Additionally, Ramirez Miranda said her coming out process had its obstacles, given that part of her extended family on her dad’s side holds homophobic views. She explained that two of her cousins are also a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and when they came out they were rejected and shunned. Ramirez Miranda feared being treated the same as they were, although fortunately that did not happen. 

As for Ramirez Miranda, her encouragement toward those still in the closet was similar to that of Francisco’s. 

“Honestly, just take your time. There’s no need to rush. Your time will come, and it may be sooner than later, but as long as you’re surrounded by the people you love, you’ll be alright,” Ramirez Miranda said.