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Q and A with Bill Barnert (He/Him/His)

To celebrate National Coming Out Day we are highlighting the coming out experiences and insights of several of SpeakOUT’s speakers. We asked them to fill in some of the details of what coming out was like for them and how it has affected their work with SpeakOUT. When our speakers share their stories out in the community, they inspire others to have the confidence to live more authentically and we hope it will do the same for you.

Bill Barnert has been with SpeakOUT since 1980. He is 64 years old and enjoys  the theater, music, movies, education, and comedy.

Q: If you had to use one word to describe how you felt after coming out, what would it be?

A: Apprehensive.

Q: Why was coming out important to you? How was it challenging?

A: I felt that I was living a lie – lying to my parents, my family, my friends. Hiding my sexuality had put a barrier between me and everybody, and I wanted to take that barrier away. It was difficult at first, because in some ways I felt that until I told ANYONE, it was OK that I hadn’t told my parents. But I wasn’t ready to come out to my parents, so it was a Catch-22. I couldn’t tell them first, and I couldn’t NOT tell them first.

Q: If you could have told your younger self one thing before coming out, what would it be?

A: Spend less time fretting, and more time dating.

Q: How does Speak friendsOUT’s use of coming out stories help to create change?

A: I was at a weekend of college LGBTQ+ leaders at my Alma Mater, Brown. A young woman came up to me and asked “Are you Bill?” “Yes,” I said, “Why?” “Because I go to Colby College in Maine, and before you [SpeakOUT] came up to give an assembly, there were barely two out gay people on campus who talked to each other, and now we have a gay group, I do speaking engagements, and I quote you all the time!”

Q: How have you witnessed SpeakOUT positively affect those around you?

A: At one of the SpeakOUT Training Weekends, there were a number of high school students, and their parents. One of the mothers came up to me & started talking about her daughter as if I should know both of them. I finally confessed that I couldn’t place her, and she blushed. “Oh, of course! We can see you on TV, but you can’t see us! And I used a fake name.” She had called in to SpeakOUT TV when her daughter first came out, and I was the first person she had discussed it with, and she felt much better afterwards. And here they both were at a SpeakOUT Training!

Q: Why do you volunteer your time with SpeakOUT?

A: It really makes a difference in people’s lives, and that’s a good feeling.