Article appearing in The Daily Cardinal
October 12, 2005


Transgender speaker urges students
to end 'closeting'

by Anne Guettler

The Daily Cardinal
volume 115, issue 27, UW Madison
Published: Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Debra Davis, executive director of the Gender Education Center,
speaks at Memorial Union Tuesday night.

Photo by Logan Zinman

        In the intimate setting of the Beefeaters Room in Memorial Union, Debra Davis, a retired media center specialist turned speaker, shared her positive story about coming out as a transgender.

         Sponsored by the LGBT Campus Center, Davis was speaking on behalf of National Coming Out Week. Davis was a former librarian at Southwest High School in Minneapolis, Minn., and is now the executive director at the Gender Education Center in Maple Grove, Minn.

         In a society plagued with negative accounts of "coming out of the closet," Davis carried a surprisingly positive tone. Over the course of an hour and a half, Davis shared general definitions and information about what it means to be a transgender, told personal stories and ended with an interactive question and answer session.

         "Even though we are celebrating National Coming Out Week, the vast majority of us are hugely closeted, and you aren't going to see us," Davis said. "We think that 1 to 5 percent of the population might be transgender, but there's really no way to know since most of us are closeted."

         Davis went on to discuss the difficulty she had by leading two separate lives before she came out. She said she came out in 1998 after deciding that she was not going to hide who she was anymore. Of course there were fears about coming out in the workplace, especially since she worked with children. She said she was worried she was going to get fired, since until then there had only been three or four other transgender teachers that had come out, and they were fired immediately.

         Davis said coming out was the best thing she ever did, and encouraged everyone in hiding to come out, as no one should ever have to lie about who he or she really is.

         Emily Shor, UW-Madison junior, works at the LGBT Campus Center and said she was satisfied with the turnout.

         "I would have loved to see a lot more people, but I thought it was great. People who listen to Debra speak obviously get a lot out of it, and she has a great message," she said.

         UW-Madison sophomore Brad Schmock said, "The turnout was really cool because a couple years ago when we brought Debra in, the turnout was a little lower."

        If your organization would like to book Debra Davis as a speaker, she can be contacted through the Gender Education Center at (763) 424-5445, or visit Davis's Web site for more information at


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