From Alicia Keys songs to tales of awkward first dates, the university’s third Queer Monologues Open Mic featured a variety of performances and invited discussion from the asexual community.
“Being visible is very important,” Fiona Jardine, graduate coordinator for LGBTQ Student Involvement and Advocacy, said.
Jardine said there was a lack of space for the LGBT community, so she wanted to create a safe area for people to share their story or speak out in any way, whether it be through poetry, song or simply talking.
This year, the open mic, sponsored by MICA and the LGBT Equity Center, was held in the basement of the Stamp Student Union from 1 to 3 p.m. yesterday, attracting nearly 40 people throughout the event.
Mykell Hatcher-McLarin, a senior sociology major, emceed the event while he sprinkled in a couple performances as well.
He shared a poem titled “Mom, I Am,” which tackled the desperate need and desire of a mother’s approval, and “Dysphoria Reprise,” which discussed the sufferings in a self-destructive relationship.
“Call me your son. Tell me you’re proud of your son,” he read, “your son, who cringes when you call him ‘your daughter.’”
Strong, raw pieces like these caught Robin Sobal’s attention when she was walking by and inspired her to share her story with the audience.
Sobal, who graduated last year with a Spanish and linguistics degree, told the audience about how she wanted to give light to the asexual community because she felt they were underrepresented.
“The asexual community is virtually invisible,” Sobal said.
She spoke about the pressure of sex among her past relationships and described the difficulties of explaining her gender identity.
“I was just crying to the audience,” Sobal said afterward. “This was me. I wish I could talk about [this] with my parents.”
She said Hatcher-McLarin’s piece gave words to what she felt she couldn’t say, such as identifying herself as “transfluid.”
Madeleine Moore, a senior community health major and part of the school’s LGBT community, said the LGBT group planned to create a small group for asexual people.
“We found that there is a desire and a need for asexual or agender identities to meet and create communities,” she said. Though it’s still in its very first stages, she added.
But the open mic included more light-hearted performances as well.
Moore shared two entertaining stories with the crowd: a bad first date involving a rave, dance battles and a hospital, and a story about a middle-school crush on a teacher that led into a “butch versus fem” feud between her lesbian nemesis.
The event took an artistic turn as people began singing and freestyling about a wide range of topics, including religion, love and acceptance. One student even covered Alicia Keys’ “No One,” which received loud applause.
Mykalee McGowan, a print journalism major at Howard University, combined original poetry and song during her performance.
“I try to conform to society’s version of me and realized I have imprisoned myself,” she read. “To free myself, I have to be myself.”
McGowan said this was her first time attending a queer open mic event, but she came because Hatcher-McLarin invited her.
“Even though there is a LGBTQ community at Howard, it’s not as, like, prominent as here,” McGowan said of UMD. “And me being a bisexual, I don’t hear many bisexual stories, [so] it was great to hear some today.”
There were also several poems, spoken word pieces and monologues about Christianity, which was something new compared to the past queer open mics.
But they were all very accepting, Jardine said.
“We’ve never had anyone be offensive, which is different than anyone taking offense,” she said. “No one has ever been intentionally offensive.”
That’s the beauty and the risk of hosting the event in such an open space where people walking by can just jump in and speak if they feel compelled to, Jardine said.
“Open mics are so open that we sometimes drift away from what we focus on, but we always bring it back,” Hatcher-McLarin said.
Maria Kim is a senior Bloc reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.