PRIDE: One Man Finds His Sense of Identity Through the Rowan Community

Kayden crouches next to a large tree.

Today, we feature Kayden Heinz (he/his), a rising junior Writing Arts major. We strive to amplify all student voices, all year-round. To be featured, please contact rowanblog [at] 

Kayden discusses how Rowan has helped him to find his new sense of identity and community amongst those on campus. He also goes into how we as a campus community could break the current stigmas as well as improve class dynamics here at Rowan University for the LGBTQ+ community to make sure all students who identify as any pronoun, gender or orientation feel welcome and inclusive. 

Tell me how does Pride represent you and your story?

I’m transgender who identifies as a man. So I’ve related and connected with a lot of trans masculine men, especially because I know a lot of the people who I know personally have kind of questioned themselves as far as their sexual orientation as well, to which I relate back to the most in the reflection of my own journey. So that intersected with my question on which gender I preferred to date as well. There’s the transgender and bisexual experience that a lot of people with the same way of identifying all have in common. There are some differences, but at the end of the day Pride and what it stands for and the history behind that word of Pride that all makes us all as a community stand together and relate to each other.

Within some households, some of their children grow up in certain environments to which they are molded to not accept an another way of lifestyle that is out of the norm from what certain parents teaches us. Could you explain to me how the emotional process you experienced within yourself and your environment during the time of when you were still trying to identify who you truly were?  

For me it was very hard to come to terms with my sexuality because on both sides of my family I was the first granddaughter, so my femininity and birth was celebrated. For example whenever I showed up to family gatherings, my family would be like “Oh finally, the girl is here!” So on my end, I was going against what I knew my family was expecting and wanting out of me and just figuring it out. I kind of felt placed into a box, where even when I was still identifying as she/her I personally felt like I did not fit into that box. I was always kind of tomboyish, so I always felt like no matter what I was never what they were expecting.

A portrait of Kayden as he stands in front of a brick wall.

Do you personally feel like the best acceptance is self acceptance and the acceptance within your community? Or having the the acceptance of those around you in your community but also close loved ones? 

I feel like because that box [of gender] was established, stepping out of it almost made me feel like I would be a disappointment to those people closest to me. I felt like I was almost leaving behind who they thought I was due to the fact that was the number one characteristic that they knew about me was my sex and almost stepping out of that was just kind of where I questioned to myself: where do I go from there? As someone who has just recently come out, I’ve learnt to basically take everything one step at a time and I’m not trying to push myself to do everything all at once, and carry out my journey by taking baby steps when it comes to my new sexuality and I genuinely wanna protect my mental health and that’s my main priority as of right now. I think it’s really important to find your community that will support you, because you could only accept and love yourself so much if everyone around you is telling you who you are is wrong. Most queer youth grow up in communities that are telling them that they are wrong, and their sexuality or gender is taboo. So I stress the importance of finding that community who supports you as you go through the tough times of not only figuring out who you are, but also what you are.

Kayden sits on a couch with his reflection showing in a mirror.

What are a few stigmas within your community that you want to share a message about, on campus or within society today?

Transmen could be feminine, and transwomen could be masculine. Makeup and dresses does not make or break what your gender is; it’s what you feel on the inside and not how you present yourself and if you’re not able to present yourself in the way that you want to quite yet then that’s completely okay. There are many resources on campus, but the most important thing is to always have a sense of safety when it comes to disclosing your identity as well, especially if you know if you are in an environment where you know it’s not safe to come out.

How do you personally feel about the LGBTQ+ community here on campus, and do you feel as though you are being seen and heard across all departments here on campus? If not how could they personally do more to make all feel welcomed and accepted?

Before I was a Writing Arts major, I used to be another major in a STEM field. So being able to experience both class dynamics between both majors, I couldn’t help but to notice the difference between the approaches when it comes to the discussions about the LGBTQ+ community. In the classes I previously took, I noticed less of a range of discussion on the topic at hand – it was more of a binary male versus female, to where I found in the writing classes it’s more of a welcoming approach of them genuinely wanting to learn more of what do you identify as, pronouns, and preferred name – which to me is showcasing on how they could make you feel comfortable and heard. There are many clubs and organizations like PRISM, that you could join as well as events being hosted where you could find others within the community. There are also very supporting resources on campus as well like the Wellness Center, for an example for those who identify as transgender there is a group therapy program as well as a therapist who directly works with the group for those who prefer more of a one-on-one session.

Kayden sits for a portrait.

Describe to me your first year experience on campus as a transgender man compared to now – what were your challenges and setbacks and what were the moments in which you thrived. 

When I first started here at Rowan University, I identified myself with a different name and was previously using they/them pronouns and was living as more of non-binary person. I was very overwhelmed with college after doing online school for two years due to the pandemic. I had a bunch of things lined up for myself like working a part time job. Also, at the time, I signed up for the transgender group therapy here at Rowan, to which I personally found to be really helpful because Rowan offered a space for me to really express on how I was truly feeling about my gender that I did not feel necessarily comfortable talking about with who I was living with and also due to the fact that I sort of distanced myself from my previous friend group. So I felt the strong need to find that community that I knew would support me.

If you could give any advice to a student now or any incoming first year student who is currently figuring out their identity of who they are, what would it be and why? 

As much as the thought of this could be absolutely terrifying, you have to start firstly by attending events on campus or even within the Glassboro community. Social media also plays a big part as well, with people speaking about their own experiences. That’s where I personally figured out when I was transgender due to self-questioning my own identity and why I was feeling that way about myself. I also did my own research to help me to finally place a label on why I felt how I felt or questioning who I truly was. As someone who suffers from social anxiety, I kind of felt comfortable seeing other people’s authentic life’s through themselves before I could do the same for me as well. I strongly suggest taking baby steps, before you fully could be loud and proud with your identity for yourself personally as well on campus.

Kayden stands cross armed leaning against a tree.

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Story by: Tatiana Retamar, rising senior journalism major 
Photos by: Valentina Giannattasio, rising junior dance and marketing double major

First Year Voices: Physics Major, Beanie Baby Enthusiast Emily Ward

Emily poses in front of the Prof statue with a few of her Beanie Babies.

Today we feature Emily Ward, a first year Physics major with a minor in Astronomy from Mullica Hill, NJ (Gloucester County). Emily runs an Instagram account called @ProfBeanieBabies along with managing a heavy school load. Emily shares how she balances it all. 

What inspired you to join your major? 

When I was around 10 or 11, I watched the reboot of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I talked about it with my dad during the car ride to school and telling him all about this cool show I was watching. He told me, “Well, that’s what astrophysicists do for a living!” It was in this moment where I realized that I realized that that’s what I want to do for a living. 

What’s something interesting that you learned in a class you’ve taken this semester? 

I’ve learned a lot of cool things in my literature class about time. The class is called Science and Literature: Modern Times with Dr. Hyde. We talk a lot about how time is a social construct and discuss literature that centers around that thought. I’ve learned a lot of really cool things in this class, so much that I can’t pinpoint just one. 

What’s your typical day like on campus?

I wake up around 8 or 9 in the morning. I normally go to the student center for breakfast because I love Pete’s Bagels coffee. I chill in the Pit for a while, playing web games or doing homework. I have classes everyday at 11 so that’s where I’d typically head to next. After class on Mondays and Wednesdays, I go hang out with my best friend from high school named Andrew. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I usually head back to the Student Center and hang out there. 

The Beanie Babies rested atop of the owl
The Beanie Babies steal the show!

You run a Beanie Baby account that has become quite popular around campus! How did you come up with the idea? 

Senior year of high school, my friend, Olivia, and I had an AP Calculus test the first week back in school and Olivia was really nervous. A few weeks back, I found a Beanie Baby snail while thrifting, and I know that Olivia loves snails. So I thought, “Hey, why not bring in the Beanie Baby snail for her?” So I brought in the Beanie Baby for her to have during the day and she really liked that. From then on, I kept bringing in Beanie Babies to school to make me and my friends smile. Eventually, our whole friend group started buying them. 

Where do you get them from?

I found this antique store in Pitman that gets shipments and sells them. I started going there so often to buy them that the owner now knows who I am and texts me whenever they’re about to get a shipment. My friends and I shop there all the time now. My friend, Emily, bought her first beanie baby, Weenie, there. I’m definitely the trendsetter of the group. 

And who are your Beanie Babies? 

My Beanie Babies are named Batty, Pounce, Magic and Cassie!

What’s one club, organization, or group of friends that’s helped you feel like Rowan is home?

PRISM has really helped me feel at home. I remember going to the first meeting and they were talking about their policies against discrimination and it included sexual orientation in the policy. I went to a Catholic school and we didn’t have any policies against discrimination of sexual orientation. My friend, Abby, and I ran a secret club at the school like PRISM. We had to keep it a secret or else the school feared that parents would pull their kids out or that donors would stop giving donations. They made us call it a Cultural Diversity Club so people didn’t know what it was actually about. While I loved my old school and how supportive many of the teachers were of our club, it’s sad that our administration couldn’t fully support us in fear of losing money.

Emily smiling near the Science Building
Emily looking beautiful!

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Story by:
Bianca Gray, recent English graduate

Photos By:
Nick Flagg, senior theatre and advertising major 

Queer Voices: VP of Student Life Drew Tinnin

This interview was originally featured on the Queer Voices Instagram page @queer_voices. 

Biomedical Art and Visualization major Emerson Harman created the Queer Voices Project, which is working “to amplify LGBTQ+ student, faculty, and alumni voices at Rowan University through portraits and interviews.” You can also find more of their content here.

Drew posing outside the Chamberlain Student Center with a red mask on.

Name, pronouns, and identity?

I am Drew Tinnin, I use he/him/his pronouns, and I identify as a gay male.

What is your position at Rowan, and when did you start?

I am currently the Associate Vice President for Student Life here, so I work a lot with campus involvement such as the Student Center and Rec Center, orientation, student leadership, and clubs and organizations. I started in 2010 working with orientation and student leadership programs. 

When did you come out as LGBTQ, and why then?

I’m from a fairly small, conservative town in middle-of-nowhere Missouri that had about 8,000 people and 160 people in my high school class. I went to college at a school very similar to Rowan there in Missouri, and came out during college because it was really an environment that was more conducive to me. I met many accepting faculty and staff I interacted with that supported me throughout my coming out process in college. 

Has being LGBTQ+ impacted or influenced your career, and if so, how?

Education in general is fairly accepting and so that has probably contributed to my career choice. I originally was planning to be a high school speech and theater teacher, which is what I was going for in my undergrad. I really got involved in college, was an RA and a member of student government, and by working with the different staff I learned that higher education is a thing too, which is why I decided to pursue my career in higher ed. I went to grad school right after undergrad for higher ed at Bowling Green in Ohio, which is actually where I met my then-future husband as a grad student. My career choice has definitely been part of my coming out and identity development.

How has LGBTQ culture and acceptance changed throughout your time here at Rowan?

Even in 10 years here at Rowan, I’ve definitely seen a lot of changes. When I started, we only had one [LGBTQ+] student organization, the Gay-Straight Alliance. Over time I have seem the Gay-Straight Alliance morph into what is now Prism, and we now have many more queer student organizations. I was the first advisor for True Colors, which started because some trans students didn’t feel that they had the type of space that they wanted in Prism, so they started their own organization. Now we also have Queer People of Color, Out in STEM, and a variety of other opportunities for students, which is something that has definitely increased over the years.

There have also been some campus policies and things that we’ve tried to do to support students that I’m proud to be a part of. We were one of the first schools in the state to implement preferred name policies for students. We’ve also done a lot of work with single-user restrooms that are more accessible on campus, as well as some more inclusive housing options where students can choose roommates without consideration for sex or gender identity. When we built Holly Pointe, the gender neutral bathrooms were certainly something we wanted to make sure were included. 

What would you say to a student or youth who’s struggling with their identity, either personally or with others?

I definitely think it’s a process that’s different for a lot of people, but I hope students are able to find the support and resources that they need here. I’ve found a lot of students and faculty are accepting and welcoming, and both wanting to learn more about others while also being supportive. I know it can be super scary to talk about identity, especially if you are questioning or just coming out, but in my experience, it really helped when I started talking about my identity with others.

For new students, I would just encourage them to get involved and explore their new community! We have many LGBTQIA+ student organizations and resources, and they should not hesitate to check them out no matter how they identify.

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Ayanna Johnson Reflects on New York City Pride Parade

Balloon arch and flag at pride parade

As we approach the end of Pride month, senior Ayanna Johnson shares her experience attending this year’s New York City Pride Parade.

Describe the feeling of being at this event.

“It is hard to describe the joy of pride but if I had to choose I would say magical, warm and accepted.”

Anything that stood out to you the most during this event?

“How many older people were still out supporting, they had to live through so much for us queer people to have the freedom to live.”

Ayanna wears a Pride flag at the New York Pride Parade.

Did this event have a positive impact on you? Why or why not?

“Yes, it definitely made me feel like I belonged somewhere special, around people who are like me and it felt nice to not have to be anxious about what if they find such a big part of you offensive.”

What if anything did you dislike about this event?

“There were so many people littering.”

You mentioned this was your favorite day of the year? Why is that?

“The day of the pride parade is like a second birthday for a lot of queer people, it is a time completely dedicated to loving who you want and it feels so special and awesome. Overall, the environment is amazing.”

Would you recommend others to attend this event in the future? Why or why not? 

“Everyone enjoys different environments, if you like being around people then it’s perfect but you don’t have to go to the parade to have pride in who you are.” 

One special thought?

“It feels good to lift up the chain of pretending to be something you’re not.” 

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Story by:
Nene Diallo, senior public relations major

Header photo courtesy of:

Queer Voices: Rowan Global Student Denzell Moore

This interview was originally featured on the Queer Voices Instagram page @queer_voices. 

Biomedical Art and Visualization major Emerson Harman created the Queer Voices Project, which is working “to amplify LGBTQ+ student, faculty, and alumni voices at Rowan University through portraits and interviews.” You can also find more of their content here.

Denzell smiling and posing for a photo outside the engineering trail.

Name, pronouns, and identity?

Denzell Moore, he/him, bisexual 

What is your year in school and your major?

Graduate student in Higher Education Administration

When did you come out and why then?

I feel like I’ve never formerly came out because I was outed. Since then I choose when and who I come out to on my terms. Now that I am more comfortable with myself, I see sharing my identity with people as a privilege for them to further understand me. 

Has being LGBTQ impacted or influenced your education in any way? If so, how?

In regards to my education being bisexual has made notice a lot of the extra steps LGBTQ+ folks have to take to feel and respected in their learning environment. In class discussions around sexuality, I often contemplate whether or not to out myself and how that will change how my peers and professors will see me.

Has LGBTQ culture/acceptance at Rowan changed throughout your time here?

Initially when I arrived at Rowan I wasn’t sure about Rowan’s LGBTQ acceptance. It wasn’t until homophobic/transphobic protestors made their way onto campus (spring of 2019) that I was able to see how accepting Rowan was regarding LGBTQ+ people. While this was taking place many faculty, students and staff of all backgrounds displayed their rejection of these protestors’ ideals by verbally counter protesting and posing with the Pride flag in support. It wasn’t until then I was able to accurately see how accepting and supportive Rowan’s campus can be.   

Selfie of Denzell in Campbell Library.

What is something you would like to see changed at Rowan with regard to LGBTQ life?

While I was pursuing my undergraduate degree at Rowan, I served as Public Relations Chair for Prism (a LGBTQ+ advocacy group at Rowan). During this time I heard the grievances of a few trans students regarding making sure they were not addressed by their dead name by professors (even after telling their professors their preferred name). I would like to see a change in Rowan in which trans students do not have to endure this uncomfortable situation.

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#PROFPRIDE: Faculty Shares Advice

Dr. Stephen Fleming is Assistant Dean for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He offers his perspective and resources for incoming or current LGBTQIA+ students.

Stephen Fleming standing outside of Bunce Hall while wearing a blue suit and tie.

1. You are not alone. 

College is a very common time for students to question their sexuality and/or gender identity. You are not alone, and there are resources available on campus to help you through the process.

2. It is OK to not know. 

We live in a world of labels and many of us strive to fit into one of them. Understandably, students can feel pressure to quickly commit to knowing who they are and who they like. But, it’s OK to not know and to take your time in exploring these aspects of your identity.  

3. Get involved.

There is so much value in getting involved with peers and educators who have similar interests as you. Whether it be a club, sport, campus employment or something else, these involvement opportunities can help you feel a sense of belonging at Rowan. Even better — you can meet new friends and build your resume in the process!

4. Assert your Name.

Rowan has a preferred name policy as part of our effort to ensuring all feel valued and welcome. If you are not being called by the preferred name that you listed on Banner, don’t be afraid to respectfully address it with your faculty, peers, etc. Almost always, the mistake is not intentional and folks are happy to do all they can to do better.

5. RU a LGBTQIA+ ally?

There are spaces for you on campus also! Don’t miss your opportunity to show your support for LGBTQIA+ members of the campus community. It is noticed and it means a lot.

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Story by:
Bianca Torres, music industry graduate

Photo of Dr. Fleming courtesy of Queer Voices Project

Queer Voices: Psychology Major Ella Emmer

This interview was originally featured on the Queer Voices Instagram page @queer_voices. 

Biomedical Art and Visualization major Emerson Harman created the Queer Voices Project, which is working “to amplify LGBTQ+ student, faculty, and alumni voices at Rowan University through portraits and interviews.” You can also find more of their content here.

Name, pronouns, and identity?

My name is Ella Emmer, my pronouns are she/her, and identify as gay.

What is your year in school and your major?

I’m a junior Psychology major and am also pursuing a minor in German.

A selfie of Ella with a rainbow Pride flag in the background.
When did you come out as LGBTQ+, and why then?

Unfortunately, the first part of my coming out journey was being outed. I got outed my sophomore year of high school to my field hockey team, my coaches, and the entire athletic wing. I had a lot of different friend groups and so it was kinda divided. My friends in the theater wing didn’t find out until I chose to come out my junior year.

The first time I chose to come out I felt like it was almost a form of activism. I was in my high school psychology class and I heard really harmful and derogatory words being thrown around and so I turned around to the group of guys saying those harmful things and I said, ‘Well, what’s wrong with being gay,’ which immediately shocked everyone into silence. He tried to defend it and be like ‘Well Daniella, what would you do if a girl came up and tried to kiss you, wouldn’t you think it’s weird,’ and despite not being out to anyone in the school except that one athletic section, I said, ‘I’d kiss her right back’ and then he was like ‘Oh so you’re a dyke’ to which I said yes.

It was a very uncomfortable experience and it was extremely embarrassing in the moment, but it’s something I look back on with pride because I wanted to make a statement. I didn’t like how no one was saying anything, especially the teacher because I knew he was hearing what was happening. After that class I had a really long and meaningful talk with my high school choir director and he said something that has stuck with me since. He said, ‘Empower yourself and live in your light,’ and that’s something I still live by today. 

​Has being LGBTQ impacted or influenced your education?

Being gay, one of the criteria I looked at when choosing a college was how accepting of LGBTQ students they were and the resources they have for our community. When I saw that Rowan has various LGBTQ+ clubs and the SJICR center, it made me feel very at-home and comfortable, and also I’ve always been someone who loves activism and social justice work, so finding Prism felt like a perfect fit. It felt like a great balance between being a social group for LGBTQ members to meet each other as well as pursuing activist work.

I also want to be a trauma therapist, and part of my mission is to advocate and support LGBTQ+ individuals because unfortunately, people in the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to face trauma. 

​​Has LGBTQ culture and acceptance changed throughout your time at Rowan?

In my experience, I’ve always felt that Rowan has been a very accepting place. I’ve loved to see Prism grow over the years. When I first started it was a small, tight-knit group and now we’re still a family but it’s amazing each year to see more and more people join the family and it makes my heart so happy.

How has attending Rowan helped you in finding an inclusive community?

I was lucky enough to find Prism early on and because of that, I met some of my closest friends. I found people who understood and related to experiences I’ve had. There’s a bond that comes from facing similar oppressive situations. While extremely unfortunate, we all understand what it’s like to be rejected for who we are, and have faced discrimination in one form or another. I’m so lucky to have found Prism and all of the amazing people in the club.

Were there any faculty that you particularly enjoyed, inspired you and/or made you feel you had a safe space?

I initially met JoAnna Murphy by accident, but ever since she has been the person I go to for everything. JoAnna exudes traits that the rest of this world needs to adopt. I truly admire her compassion, authenticity, and dedication to create change in the world. She is a woman and activist I strive to emulate. I feel so lucky to know her and have her as a mentor.  JoAnna has undoubtedly affected my experience at Rowan in an extremely positive way.

Is there anything you would want to see changed at Rowan in regards to LGBTQ+ life?​

I’ve heard many painful stories that my friends have shared about their professors aren’t using the right pronouns or the right name. I feel that that is completely unacceptable and there is no reason why professors or anyone for that matter can’t respect someone’s identity. In the future I would hope to see change implemented that holds all professional staff to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all of their students.

Anything else you want to discuss?

The journey of figuring out your identity can be extremely terrifying and it can feel isolating, but I want people to know that they’re not alone in any of it and that they have a community. They’re exactly valid and worthy for who they are and if anyone ever needs support or a safe person to talk to, just know that I’m an email away.

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#PROFPRIDE: Learning to Embrace Myself

The front of Bunce Hall being lit up at night with rainbow colored lights

Today, from a member of our Rowan Blog team: “In honor of Pride Month, I wanted to share my own story in grappling with and understanding my sexuality.” 

Dealing with my sexuality has never been an easy task since it isn’t something that can be easily placed into one box. My identity in general intersects at multiple points that, until recently, have been viewed as separate entities.

I’m Black, which subjects me to racial discrimination; but I’m also a girl, which dips this racial discrimination/prejudice in a coat of misogyny known as misogynoir. However, I can acknowledge that in spite of the fact that I have experienced misogynoir throughout the duration of my life, I also experience privilege in that I have never and will never experience colorism which is something that my darker brothers and sisters have been subjected to for years that I, in spite of being a Black girl, will never know. These conflicting intersections of my racial identity have already complicated how I view myself and how the world views and  interacts with me sometimes leaves me confused. This confusion was only heightened when I fully embraced by bisexual identity. 

I’ve known I wasn’t straight ever since I was a child and always did my best to hide it knowing that people aren’t exactly accepting of people whose identities stray too far from the social norm. Growing up, I saw my other peers who were more open about their sexual identities be the targets of bullying and harassment, which only caused me to further retreat into myself and hide that part of my identity. In middle school, I was already a Black child in a predominantly white school whose mother couldn’t afford many of the same luxuries that my peers had, which made me an easy target. I knew that disclosing my sexual orientation would only make this harassment worse, and maybe there was a bit of privilege in that in some capacity. 

There is no way to look “gay,” “straight,” or anything else but people often associate certain characteristics with a person’s sexuality which is so ignorant but it was a part of growing up and something people (on all points of the spectrum) still actively do in their adult life. The fact that I didn’t have any of those perceived characteristics allowed for me to hide in plain sight and would continue to allow me to hide if I wasn’t no longer ashamed of my sexuality or the woman I’m becoming. It’s actually at Rowan University where I was able to get in front of a group of my classmates and openly say, “I’m bisexual” and not care what people think, and the response I got was very warm and welcoming. 

I won’t lie and say I now live a life without fear, but I do live a life where I care less about what people think. While my sexuality is no one’s business, it is also not something I’m ashamed of. If it comes up in conversation, then I have no problem disclosing it and, if anyone has a problem with it, then that’s not something that will weigh on me. In the words of Nicki Minaj, “I am who I am because I am who I am.” Take it or leave it. 

Girl in flannel shirt sitting on a rock and smiling.

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Story by:
Bianca Gray, senior English major

Photos by:
Stephanie Batista, junior music industry major

RJ Wentzell, senior exercise science major

#PROFPRIDE: Filmmaker Riel Dioquino on “Beyond His Closet”

Riel wears his graduation regalia and squats by a tree.

Today we speak with Riel Marc Dioquino (he/him), who recently graduated with a degree in Radio/Television/Film (RTF) and a concentration in Production. Riel hails from Burlington Township and is a first-generation college student. He also participated in Cinema Workshop and earned recognition for this short documentary, Beyond His Closet, in the Edelman College of Communications & Creative Arts Student Showcase. Beyond His Closet follows Adam Kowalski in his journey after coming out. Riel also earned recognition for his narrative film, Lost & Found, at the 7th Annual RTF Media Festival.

Why is this a relevant story to share? 

Anyone that’s in the LGBTQ+ community, we hear a lot of stories of people coming out, but little do we hear stories of what happens after. There are a lot of inner demons you still have to work with maybe your whole life you’ve closeted yourself and you’ve hidden your identity for so long. That affects your way of living and you have to find a way to find yourself again.

This goes back to the concept of coming in, which is what Adam talks about [in the documentary]. The concept of coming out is that you tell everyone, your friends and your family that you’re gay or bi, or whoever you are. Coming in is just as important because it means you’re coming into yourself. You’re starting to explore the good and bad sides of yourself and become more comfortable in your own skin. That’s what this whole story of Adam and this documentary focuses on, not just the process of coming out, but going through life afterward and finding yourself again. 

Is there anything else you want viewers to realize or feel after watching the film? 

Coming from my personal struggles, I think from what Adam says at the end to keep going through life and keep moving forward, I think that makes us stronger. 

I just hope anyone that watches this feels the hopefulness and the strength Adam shows. I think Adam is a really strong person, and having that film in mind kind of helped me mentally prepare for my surgery [Riel currently has a broken arm that required surgery]. I feel like we should just appreciate life as it is, not take life too seriously and just continue on regardless of whatever you’re are going through, I think that’s what’s going to make your life the fullest.

Adam, wearing glasses and a black t-shirt, plays the guitar on his porch.

How did you prepare Adam to be your documentary subject? 

I did a pre-interview with Adam before we started shooting for the film. We met up and talked about his life for a few hours that first day. After I knew a little bit about him, I had my questions lined up so that he could talk about: his childhood, his process of coming out, what happened after he came out and then a wrap-up of what he thinks about his life.

How long did it take to film the documentary? 

On all phases of production, it took a whole semester. This film was for my TV Documentary Field Production class. I had Professor Jonathan Olshefski and I chose to do it independently, which was a tough job to carry but it wasn’t too bad. Thankfully, I had Prof. Olshefski to guide me. 

Surprisingly, it took four days to film the documentary. Before and during those film days throughout the semester, I had to find a subject, pre-plan the shoot, plan all the equipment, then commute to get all of the equipment from the RTF room. Once production was done, I edited everything at home. 

Beyond His Closet film cover photo showing Adam playing the guitar while barefoot.

In the future, what kind of films do you want to make? 

I’ve honestly never really thought of that because I’m always thinking about what’s the next job to do. I just graduated and I always get asked, “What’s your plan? Do you have any jobs lined up?” It’s the pressure of “What is next?” or “You have to keep going even though you have no idea where to go” that kind of scares me.

I always thought about maybe doing freelancing or production assistant jobs. Personally, I never thought of making a documentary or a huge film because it’s not usually my thing. But, if anyone asked me to join their project, I would!  

For my Instagram posts, I play around with a lot of lighting and smoke on concepts for my photo/video shoots. Recently, I’ve been wanting to get out of my basement to do more photo/video shoots in nature for a change. The way I work with projects on Instagram or non-jobs is more about expressing myself, what I feel in the moment, and what I need to get out of my chest into visuals. Then I’m onto my next project. 

I used to make a lot of dark, emo, Billie-Eilish-inspired projects where I’m in this dark void, but recently I want to make more projects where I feel free with the use of outside nature. 

Going back to the making of my documentary, it can be hard for filmmakers to create a documentary if you don’t understand the energy of the person. That’s what brings life to it, showing compassion and deep feelings about it. Not just the way people talked in the interview but the way you edit it, the way you shoot b-roll, and how you use lighting. Everything influences how you want to portray this person’s life on screen.

Riel looks contemplatively into the golden sunset with his hand on his face.

Is there anything else you want to share about the film? 

I just thought it was cool how I was able to be comfortable enough to dive deep in this subject of being a part of the LGBTQ+ community and exploring someone’s life through that. I definitely would give credit to my production classes especially my Video Art class because I was able to express myself and be open about being gay through projects where I was given the freedom to make whatever I want. From that, I felt open to doing the documentary on Adam which I am very grateful for.

What’s your message to people during Pride Month or are you keeping anything in mind during Pride Month? I feel like I’m a newbie at being openly gay because this is the first year where I’m actively expressing my identity through projects where I’m able to tell people my struggles with being gay. 

I have social anxiety, I’m very introverted, and I’m Asian. My advice for people is that there’s always going to be a group for you even if you think there’s not. 

Keeping that fire or spark alive is so important. Do what makes you happy. When I grow up, I don’t want to regret not doing the things I wanted to do. I don’t want to have an unfulfilled life when my time comes. Having that mindset helps me move forward and blocks out all the negativity. Letting go of all the tension in your chest and just doing whatever you want helps bring a lot more meaning to your life. I know it won’t be easy but I think it’d be worth the shot if you tried.

Check out more of Riel’s work at:

Instagram – @rmarc99

Portfolio Website – 

Like what you see?


Story by: 
Marian Suganob, public relations and advertising graduate

Photos by:
Riel Dioquino, radio television film graduate