National Coming Out week: Q&A with Autumn Summers
National Coming Out Week (Oct. 9-13) reflects the national awareness campaign in advocacy of LGBT goals and diversity. On Tuesday evening, A&M-San Antonio students gathered in the Vista Room to play Loteria, or bingo, in the presence of local drag queens. Drag Show Loteria is one event in the National Coming Out Week celebration that is sponsored by A&M-San Antonio’s LGBT group, The Coalition. Mesquite reporters sat down with Alfonso Garcia, also known by the stage name Autumn Summers, to discuss National Coming Out.
How long have you been performing and where?
This is my 37th year. I’ve performed all over Texas and in Oklahoma.
Was there a stigma with performing at that time?
The stigma was with people outside of the community. I came out in a time where I could not walk outside in the clothes that I perform in now.
What are your thoughts about a university that has a president that openly endorses the LGBT group?
I think it’s wonderful. I’ve been to several campuses, including San Antonio College, Our Lady of the Lake University and Trinity University. It’s been difficult to do what I do at some of them. I could never walk into and lecture at Trinity and do what I did today.
I am trying to break the stigma of the LGBT community. I started spreading awareness about five years ago. I went to SAC, OLLU and one high school.
Have you ever been the target of discrimination?
Always. Even within our community, there is a divide with what I do and what entertainers do. When we did benefits for HIV they wouldn’t sponsor those same benefits just because of what they were.
What motivates you to perform?
Young people. I can teach them what I’ve learned in the 37 years of doing this, to prevent them from being the people that I grew up around. We (LGBT people) could never walk down the street holding hands. That change came gradually. It came down to people and when they stopped staring.
Describe one wild night that you’ve had.
It was the first night I performed drag. I was challenged to do it for one night. It was to raise money for individuals who had HIV and the AIDS virus. From then on, people wanted me to do more and more.
What advice would you give for National Coming Out Week/Day?
If you choose this week to come out, don’t come out by yourself. Have someone there as moral support, especially in the presence of family.
Education is key. Family members, especially those who are uneducated, sometimes will not support. They (parents) question themselves as if they did something wrong.
It has nothing to do with what they did or didn’t do. I grew up on the West Side, with machismo. I came out to my family. I thought that no one in my family would accept it. And they didn’t.
The Coalition exists to provide peer support for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students within A&M-San Antonio and the surrounding community. Their goal is to connect, educate and inform students about the LGBTQ+ community through activities and services.