Sitting in the shade of the noisy quad, Frances Guzman reflected on her not so smooth coming out. Amidst the chaos of lunchtime pop music with bordering on painful sound to bass ratio, Guzman talked about coming from a childhood without LGBT+ representation, being raised in a Mexican family and learning how to navigate sexuality and gender identity largely on her own while also taking a leadership position.
Guzman, the Queer Alliance (QA) club president currently identifies as pansexual and nonbinary and is comfortable with any pronouns that are exclusively she/her. She rose to serve her first semester as QA president this fall after having previously been a club member.
“The past board members were really enthusiastic and open so that just led me to be more interested when I saw them during club rush a few semesters ago,” Guzman said. “Their enthusiasm radiated.”
Coming from a high school whose LGBT+ club was practically non-existent and focused more on allies, Guzman always wanted to be a part of a LGBT+ club that was more LGBT+ based. QA at PCC meets every Thursday and focuses on issues within the community, hot topics, safe spaces,different sexualities and gender identities.
“QA has helped me be more open with my own sexuality and gender,” Guzman said. “I’m still not all the way there with fully understanding everything but it has definitely helped me in communicating different aspects and to explore who I am. Previously I identified with bisexuality and was really confused about my gender. I was hesitant to be as out as I am now since I wasn’t raised with any sort of representation.”
Becoming president hasn’t come without difficulties. Guzman has found communication and working with everyone’s schedules difficult, as with most activities involving multiple people.
“Being president is definitely difficult and challenging but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Guzman said. “I love my board and being able to represent QA.”
Largely, the benefits and opportunity outweigh the downsides.
“The best aspect to being QA president is how diverse we are,” Guzman said. “We have gay people, we have trans people, we have pansexual people, we have non binary and thats just within our board. Our board being able to represent different aspects of the LGBT community helps us reach out, connect and even be role models for other members.”
Being able to connect with many people as the face of QA has opened up a lot of doors and opportunity for further understanding of the vastness that is the community. When at events outside of PCC, such as College Summit, which was hosted by Planned Parenthood, Guzman was recognized as being on the QA board.
While not being a specific LGBT event, College Summit, something Guzman spoke highly of, had subdivisions of feminst clubs, LGBT+ and more from schools from all over Southern California for peer to peer influence. The diversity seen there was inspiring to Guzman.
“People see that I’m on the board and see me as more approachable and that’s such a great thing, I love that.,” Guzman said.
Coming out was less by Guzman’s choosing and more a misshapen chance of a family member finding something private.
A journal laying out, found by Guzman’s unsuspecting mother is actually what led to Guzman coming out to her mother. Written on the first page was “Hi, my name is Frances and I am bisexual.”
While cleaning, Guzman’s mother saw the book and opened it without realizing it was a personal journal.
When Guzman returned home later that day, her mom said something Guzman didn’t agree with about lesbians and when Guzman confronted her about it, the heartstopping moment came when her mom asked “Well why do you care, are you lesbian?”
“After I told her I was bisexual, well you know how Mexican moms are,” Guzman said. “It spread to the rest of my family quickly. My coming out wasn’t as welcoming as I would have hoped. My older sister is lesbian so I knew I wouldn’t be disowned but when I came out as bisexual there was a lot of biphobic discussions such as ‘Oh, well bisexuality doesn’t exist, are you sure you aren’t just lesbian or straight’ which was hard to deal with. To this day, they are more accepting but they’re not where I’d like them to be which is pretty confusing.”
Guzman now feels more comfortable identifying as pansexual which she feels is more inclusive and means liking a person for who they are despite whatever gender identy they are.
“If you chose to come out, definitely weigh the pros and cons,” Guzman said. “There’s no rush to be out even though it may feel like it. For some people it is just not possible. There shouldn’t be anything pressuring you to come out, it should be of your own accord under a safe space with people you love and trust. If you’re not at that space yet, that is totally OK.”