Embracing and Engaging with Identity – The Community

“Alone, we can do so little; together; we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

My dear queer children,

More often than not, LGBTQ+ people such as us grow up in environments that prevent them from discovering who we are and publicly being who we are. Middle and high schools can be dangerous places for us. According to the Human Rights Campaign, when compared to our heterosexual, cisgendered peers, we are twice as likely to report that we have been physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved at. As a result, this fear of expressing who we are stifles any further exploration or understanding of our essence.

I remember that high school was a time where I had to hide my sexuality and could not demonstrate any femininity. I could not be loud, much less come out and be proud for being gay. I would always be afraid that someone would suspect me for who I really was, and I was always critiquing myself and my mannerisms. In short, I refused to acknowledge and accept who I was in high school. During this time, I didn’t have any LGBTQ+ friends, much less an LGBTQ+ community. I felt alone with no one to go to.

However, when I stepped onto St. Louis University’s campus, I immediately found a space to be who I am and resources that would help me discover my identity. Hopefully, you are also now in an environment where you are allowed to be independent and take advantage of the resources and opportunities available for you. No longer will you have to hide in the back of a classroom or live up to gender norms in order to avoid bullying in harassment. Instead, you can be who you are and join LGBTQ+ friendly groups. You can also expose yourself to other LGBTQ+ people.

One of the most important steps to take in your journey to understand yourself is figuring out what your queerness means to you and how it impacts other aspects of your identity. In this, it is important to consider the role that groups and communities have when it comes to your identity. For example, I am a spiritual person, and I feel that my sexuality and spirituality are strongly tied together. To nurture these two important aspects of my identity, I joined a spiritual LGBTQ+ small group that discusses faith and prayer. I found an accepting community that helped me better understand my queerness. Also, I joined the LGBTQ+ student organization at SLU, and I found people who helped me speak up about my past and accept myself for who I am at the present.

You might have some of these communities already available to you at your college or university. For example, your school may have an LGBTQ+ organization you can join. There, you can meet new friends and find a safe space to more fully discover yourself. Your group may have an executive board of queer college students who can help you in your journey and direct you to other LGBTQ+ friendly resources, such as counselors or other student organizations. Take advantage of these groups and become friends with other LGBTQ+ people. They will help you find your voice, develop it, and use it so that future LGBTQ+ college students also feel safe on campus. They will help you figure out just who you are, and they will act as sounding boards for your thoughts and reflections.

On the flip side, you may not have these communities and LGBTQ+ friendly groups at your college. There may be not LGBTQ+ student group. Students at your school may be queerphobic, and you may be in yet another heterosexual, cisgendered setting. However, do not fear. I promise you that there are other queer students on your campus, even if they are not in plain sight. You have a few options. You can join student organizations to meet new people. In these groups, you may meet people who are actually queer and looking for other LGBTQ+ friends. You can also download LGBTQ+ apps on your smartphone to try and find other LGBTQ+ people who are a part of those social networks. A third option takes some courage and a willingness to take a risk: you can found your own LGBTQ+ student organization on campus. There could potentially be some risks and obstacles in your way, but if you are able to do so without receiving harmful backlash or harassment, then you should do so. Not only will this help you find your own LGBTQ+ community, and subsequently help you discover yourself, but it will also give other LGBTQ+ people the opportunity to find a community.

The lesson of the day is this: in order to further discover who you are as a queer person, you need to expose yourself to LGBTQ+ and LGBTQ+ friendly groups and communities. These people will help you embrace your identity and give you the resources to explore your sexuality and/or gender identity. They will help you remember that you matter, you are valid, and you are loved.

I hope this will inspire you to go out on your campus and engage in the community, or perhaps to build your own. My next post will be my advice on how to explore your identity on your own. Whatever you may do, know that I am with you. As always, please come to me if you have any questions.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

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