Interview with Lauren Flans and Nicole Pacent from Coming Out Pod ( @ComingOutPod ) from @kleffnotes

Every week Lauren Flans and Nicole Pacent share a coming out story with a special guest because who doesn’t love a coming out story. Each story is so unique and provides deeper insight into the diversity of people who make up the LGBTQ+ community. Lauren and Nicole provide the perfect place to have fun while also discussing deep topics. I had the chance to ask them a few questions about the podcast as well as their upcoming live show at ClexaCon this year. While the interview is with both Lauren and Nicole as this was done over email, Lauren was the primary writer.

Could you tell our readers a little about yourselves, including how you identify?

We are actor/comedian Lauren Flans (Another Period; Wild ‘N Out) and actor/LGBTQ activist Nicole Pacent (Anyone But Me). Nicole identifies as bisexual, and I’m a lesbian. That being said, I’m one of those people who just doesn’t like the way the word “lesbian” literally sounds (kinda like “moist”), so I almost always phrase it as “I’m gay!”  We both use female pronouns.

How did you two become friends?

In early 2016, we did a staged reading of a new play called Average American by playwright Susan Miller. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because – in addition to being an award-winning playwright – Susan was also the co-writer and Executive Producer of Anyone But Me! We hit it off during rehearsals for the reading, and kept in touch after it was over.

For those who might not have listened yet, how would you describe Coming Out with Lauren and Nicole?

In the simplest terms, Coming Out with Lauren & Nicole is a weekly podcast where LGBTQ-identifying guests from all walks of life tell the tales of how they came out to friends, family, and the world at large. One of the most important things for us is that the podcast has a sense of humor about itself, and so we strive to maintain a down-to-earth, genuine tone, and to really strike a balance between the deeply poignant elements of the coming out process, and the downright hilarious ones. Coming Out With Lauren & Nicole launched in June of 2018, and currently has 43 episodes out on all the major podcast platforms, with listeners in the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, and beyond!

What inspired the podcast?

The idea for the podcast came as a result of us volunteering at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and seeing first-hand how many people really want/need to hear the coming out stories of others in order to find the courage to come out themselves. For me personally (this is Lauren), the main impetus came specifically from facilitating the Center’s Women’s Coming Out Group. I wanted to give the women a resource that they could turn to the other six days of the week when the group wasn’t meeting, so I searched online for a coming out podcast. I couldn’t believe that one didn’t exist, so I was like “Fuck it; I’ll do it myself” and asked Nicole!

Nicole headshot

What have been some of your favorite moments from the podcast so far?

Oh my God, SO MANY!! Going vaguely in order, Kieran Smiley’s episode (Episode 12) was really special for me, because he’s my best friend from high school, and we’re both the first people we ever came out to. I’ve known Kieran since I was thirteen, but he told a story about his dad that I’d never heard before, and we both got teary. In that same vein, the episode where we had Nicole’s mom on (Episode 17) was also incredibly special. How often do you get to listen in while someone has a conversation with their own parent about how they reacted when their child came out to them?! We were both so impressed with how open, honest, and vulnerable Karen was; you could really tell how much love there is between her and Nicole. Our tenth episode with Stephanie freaking Beatriz was SO exciting! It was so cool of Stephanie to come and talk to us in our tiny, billion-degree closet in Silver Lake, and to be so funny and open about her experience of coming out under the very public eye of media scrutiny. Speaking of funny, actor/singer/dancer Cloie Wyatt Taylor (Episode 21) is the only guest to bring a cocktail into the closet (at 11:30am, no less), and the result was HILARIOUS!  20+ episodes later, it’s still one of our favorites! It was incredibly cool for us to get to talk to musician/former FBI agent(!) Susan SurfTone in Episode 24; she came out back in the ’70s, and had amazing stories! And then Episode 33 with Ashley Holzer was incredibly meaningful for us, because Ashley is an actual member of the Women’s Coming Out group that’s mentioned above. Oh my God; and then there was our *truly* delightful Valentine’s Day episode (Episode 35) with Nicole’s ex-girlfriend, Tori Gaines…THERE ARE TOO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM!!!

What is one unexpected thing that you’ve experienced as part of Coming Out with Lauren and Nicole?

The feedback we’ve gotten from listeners over the past almost-year has been legitimately unbelievable. We have been truly floored by all of the beautiful messages we’ve gotten from people of all different sexual orientations and gender identities, all over the globe. Some of the messages we get are heartwarming and some of them are painful, but they’re all incredibly open and honest and generous. We really cannot adequately express how much it means to us to hear from people that the podcast is making a positive difference in their lives.

Theatrical headshot

What do you hope your listeners take away from the podcast?

Our mission statement is essentially “to share diverse coming out stories in order to empower all members of the LGBTQ community to be exactly who they are in the world.” I think another big thing that we hope listeners take from the podcast is the idea that they are absolutely, positively not alone! Even if you haven’t found your queer community/chosen family just yet, we want those who may be struggling to know that they WILL find their people! And in the meantime, we’ll be your queer community for you.

Can you tease any upcoming guests?

We honestly never really know who we’re gonna have coming up, because we’re just always hustling to try to bring in awesome new people! What we can definitely tell you, though, is that our guest for our very first live episode taping at ClexaCon (Sunday from 11:15am-12:15pm in the Dorothy Arzner) will be Briana Venskus!! We are VERY EXCITED!! And per the hustling, we were at the opening celebration for the L.A. LGBT Center’s new building this past weekend, and had great conversations with both Alyson Stoner and Betty Who!  They both said they’d be down to do the podcast, so fingers crossed that we can make that come together in the next couple of months!

What advice would you give someone considering coming out?

We always make sure to state that we’re not an advice podcast, but rather one that strives to inspire by example! As you’ll hear in our guests’ stories, there are common themes that run through the coming out experience, but every person’s journey is unique and reflects their own specific experiences/background/circumstances. Some bullet points that we come back to again and again, though, are:
– Your personal safety should always be your number one priority when you’re considering coming out. If your home/community is not a safe one in which to come out (in other words, if you are at risk of bodily harm, or becoming homeless if you come out), we suggest searching the internet for LGBTQ+ groups in your wider geographical area that you could join for support and anonymity while you’re figuring out next steps.
– It’s completely up to you when, how, and who you want to come out to. We always like to remind folks that you don’t “owe” anybody anything, especially not the internet! Whether or not you come out on social media is completely up to you and not “required,” even if you’re out in your personal life.
– When you’re just starting to come out, lob those softballs first! In other words, it’s a great idea to start the process by first coming out to the people who you’re almost 100% sure will have a positive, supportive reaction. Build that support system for yourself by beginning with a strong foundation.
– If you don’t get the reaction that you want, be it from a family member, close friend, or whomever, try to keep in mind that people can and do evolve over time. It may take years, but it really does happen. There have been plenty of examples of that in our guests’ stories. And in the rarer cases where certain people do not evolve in regards to your coming out, chosen family will eventually fill that space in your life; that’s why we talk so much about the importance of finding queer community.

Where can our readers stay up to date with both of you and Coming Out with Lauren and Nicole?

The pod’s socials are @comingoutpod on both Instagram and Twitter. Lauren is super-active on our Twitter, so you can get all the latest info there, and interact with her as well! And…we’re valiantly working to get our Instagram up to date! Turns out it’s insanely time-consuming to self-produce a weekly podcast WHO KNEW?!? You can also check out www.comingoutpod.com, which is coming along slowly but surely. Sections of it currently look like a web page from the early ’90s because neither of us knows how to code, but the information is SOLID! As for our personal info, Nicole is @nicolepacent on both IG and Twitter, and Lauren is @LaurenFlans on Twitter and @lauren_flans on IG.

Listen to Coming Out with Lauren and Nicole today and make sure to check them out at ClexaCon this week at 11:15 in the Dorothy Arzner Room on Sunday, 4/14!

Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. You can find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, and on my kleffnotes YouTube channel.

*Editor’s Note: A question in this interview was updated with additional safety elements pertaining to coming out and the room of the live event was corrected 4/9 at 5:15*

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