Members of the Michigan Ross Community Share Impactful and Unforgettable Stories During OUTx
In a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, students of the Ross School of Business and community members from Ann Arbor and beyond recently shared their coming-out stories during OUTx.
OUTx is an annual event organized by MBA students in Out for Business at Michigan Ross. This year, the event was themed “We Find a Way,” and each storyteller examined aspects that scared them and how they found a way to creatively and authentically express themselves in their coming-out stories.
“The OUTx storytellers were wonderful this year, and their stories were impactful, unforgettable, and even heartbreaking,” said Soojin Kwon, managing director of Full-Time MBA Admissions and Program at Michigan Ross. “Every year, I’m amazed with how courageous students are to share their mind-opening stories with the world, which I believe stems from how safe they feel addressing their peers and other members of the Michigan Ross community.
The inspiring coming-out story of one Michigan Ross MBA
To provide a snapshot of the powerful stories that were told at OUTx, below is an excerpt from the story that Michael W. O'Gorman Jr., MBA ’23, shared during the event.
O'Gorman was a teacher in Washington, D.C. when 49 people were killed and dozens more injured during the shootings at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The next day, he described how he felt helpless and grappled with how to talk with students about what happened.
O’Gorman ended up gathering his students for a restorative practice called “circling” that is used to talk about tough problems and big challenges and everyone is equal in the circle. He began the exercise by describing that they were going to have a serious conversation and that anyone who wanted to leave was allowed to. He asked them a few yes/no questions — passing around a stick to students who wanted to answer — about whether they knew about the shootings or why people were displaying rainbow flags around D.C.
When they responded it was for gay people, O’Gorman knew there was no turning back. Here’s how his story ended:
“Do you know somebody who is gay?”
I passed the talking piece around - “no, no, no, maybe, no, no, yes, no, no, yes, no.”
The talking stick returned to me: “Thank you.”
And I paused.
“For each of you who said ‘no’, you can actually say ‘yes’. You all know someone who is gay and you’ve known them for a long time, and you know them quite well.”
Then there’s this look across the students like — “is he for real?!”
And I said: “The gay person that you know— it’s me. I’m gay.”
The student next to me, reached for my hand. Two others got up and hugged me and said they loved me. Many others covered their mouths — not from fear but out of awe.
Then they had a lot of questions. “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Are there other teachers who are gay?” “Do you have a gay teacher boyfriend!?”
But some of them had questions that were a bit more serious — “When did you know?” “How did you know?” “Are/were you scared?” “Does your mom know?”
I thought about these questions and said:
“I knew that I was different when I was in school and it took me a long time to understand. It might take you a really long time, but when you know you know, and it’s nothing to be upset about, nothing to be afraid about it’s a good thing — and there are people who will always love you. I will love you.”
I chose to come out to my students — as a small yet monumental act to pushback against the violence that took 49 lives in Orlando.
I chose to come out because six in 10 queer kids will attempt violence against themselves. Many will be successful and far too many will take their own lives.
I chose to come out because I knew that statistically there were three or four kids in my class who felt different, but did not yet have the words to explain it and wouldn’t until their heart, head, and body aligned — just as I didn’t have the words until I felt alignment.