‘Gay Girl/Straight World’ columnist Penny Patterson discusses the gay life in SB

Katrine Villumsen and Katrine Villumsen

Dressed in a black skirt and a matching shirt, she entered the big stage. She seemed a little nervous standing alone in front of the microphone facing the almost full room. She was there to talk about herself, but she wanted to make another point.

“What I’m trying to do is to show that we are all the same. I’m just going through life with a woman,” Penny Patterson said.

Patterson spoke on campus Tuesday to talk about the gay community of Santa Barbara.

Best known from her column “Gay Girl/Straight World” from the weekly The Santa Barbara Independent, Patterson was the last guest of the spring semester’s Diversity Dialogues.

Patterson talked about her column, but mostly about her own experience of coming out as a lesbian.

Patterson, who was born into a religious family in Orange County, started out by talking a little about herself.

After 10 minutes, she started to answer the questions from the audience. Suddenly, a nervous Patterson seemed much more confident.

“My column is about what is going on. It’s actually very selfish,” a smiling Patterson said. She said things happening in the gay community such as the murder of Lawrence King inspire her. King, a 15-year-old high school student from Oxnard, was shot in the head twice after asking a male classmate to be his Valentine. He later died after he was declared brain dead.

“I don’t expect that writing should change the world, but it is showing that we are all the same,” Patterson said.

Because Patterson writes about personal stuff, she said she always has her girlfriend check it before it gets published. In spite of the personal and opinionated content of her columns, people are supporting her.

“I have more family pressure than social pressure,” Patterson said. “When I’m visiting my family I’m not allowed to say my girlfriend’s name or mention our relationship.” Patterson said about her religious family and their take on her sexuality.

Patterson answered one question about the importance of the new Q&A club at SBCC.

“We didn’t have a queer and straight alliance club at my high school and I think Q&A’s existence is a good thing,” Patterson.

After the speech, Patterson told The Channels that she was very nervous, but she felt it went okay. Though Patterson doesn’t have plans to speak at other schools, she said she was excited about talking at SBCC.

She added that having the audience write down questions instead of asking them directly was a good thing.

“I wanted it like that. Unfortunately it is still a taboo,” Patterson said about homosexuality.

She ended the speech with some last advice.

“Be yourself,” she said. “That would be so cool if we could all be treated equally.”