My last Pride Week at Penn State has come to an end and for the first time in my entire life, I felt like I truly got a grasp what it was about, although I feel like I have come to a different conclusion of what Pride means to me; and that’s what is driving me to write this piece. A piece of peace and what I can do after my own discovery. As a symbol of who every person who is not out of the closet, I am disclosing only my initials. This will be one of my last contributions as a graduating member of the College Democrats and hopefully will have an impact.
I think about this question all of the time: What does it mean to “come out?” Is it acknowledging yourself? Is it posting your sexual orientation on Facebook? Is it that sit-down with your family, telling them such a small detail about your life? When I think about that question, I often come to the same conclusion; “Coming out” is a very different process for each person. I personally have not told my family, only because there isn’t a reason too. I know it will be too difficult for them to process and I feel like they have no insight on how to deal with issues that occur with the LGBTQ+ community. I spent so many years “in the closet”, denying to myself that I was bisexual. I bounced back and forth, thinking about “Am I straight?” or “Am I gay?” and honestly, it was the most stressful debate I have ever had in my life. I grew up in redneck Pennsylvania and had no grasp of what LGBTQ+ pride meant or what it even meant to have the feelings for the people that I did. Now, I’m content with who I am. I’ve faced the truth that it’s okay to be attracted to the people that I am.
However, I’ve faced my share of challenges. I’ve dealt with the so many stereotypical questions and statements of “Are you sure you’re not gay?” to “You’re just denying the fact you’re gay, you’re just a stereotype in your friend group.” Hearing questions from people in the community right after being open to people about who I was hurt me. It made me feel like I didn’t fit in anywhere. Those wounds healed with time and I learned to steel myself with those questions. I learned that even members of the LGBTQ+ community needed to be educated on certain topics and that not everything was sugar and rainbows. We can raise our flags, march down the streets, protest against every single Donald Trump policy, but if we as a collective forget that we are still individuals, we forget our very purpose, for people to feel loved and accepted.
Once we forget about the individuals who are in the community, we lose sight of inclusion. Sure, every minority group has its issues and bad people from within, but I feel like the discrimination that occurs in the LGBTQ+ community from my own personal experiences is outrageous. You can go on certain social media and see profiles that read “No fats or fems” and other openly discriminatory profiles and while it’s okay to have your own preferences and express a lack of sexual interest, however, it hurts people when meeting people in the community should be a happy, accepting experience when you’re rude to the person openly. This should not be the case and the online presence of some people in our community makes interacting so much more stressful and anxiety-inducing. I know people who are very afraid of talking to other people because they have been ignored on social media or they just don’t feel good enough because of what has happened online.
So now we come down to the explanation of my title. Pride to me is accepting myself for who I am and defending those who cannot defend themselves. I do not need to go to specific LGBTQ+ events to accomplish this. I want counsel my friends when they are upset, confused, or angry. I want to be that shoulder to lean on when life gets hard. If anybody try to hurt my friends, I would be the first person to defend them, but somebody discriminating against a friend for the sexual orientation gives me extra zeal to be by their side and do anything for them in the moment. I’m so glad that people of the community at Penn State have not really have had to get beaten up just for who they love like they do in my hometown, which is why I would try to fight a crowd if I needed to if I saw a friend being hurt. My message is that we as a progressive community need to work even harder on the individuals, to be that shoulder to cry on, to help guide others to help and find assistance, and to stay open-minded. Coming out should not be a fear because they are afraid of what people in the LGBTQ+ community think of them. It shouldn’t be a fear in general, but until we reach that point where people still are concerned about who you fall in love with, we need our progressive communities to watch out for each other more, to build each other up instead of tearing each other down.
That is my call to my friends at Penn State. It’s a call to feel more of a sense of community and compassion. Give people a chance. Talk to different kinds of people that you normally don’t. I’ve tried to be friends with all kinds of people and seen people evolve from jerks to very compassionate and selfless people. Some of my best friends are what you would call the stereotypical “Greek life douchebag,” but they make sure nobody says anything that would actually hurt my feelings. I choose this path not only for my sake and to further my understanding of different kinds of people, but to make the most genuine connections with people that I possibly can. You can always find your best friends in the weirdest of places. You can find that one person that defies their stereotype and be friends with them. The real definition of inclusion to me means that you give an effort to do this. You seek to include as many people as you can and even now with the division that is happening in the States, I find this more important than ever. We need to break down these barriers between groups down to the person and join to better our world and ourselves. Once I realized this, I realized it was my duty as a member of the LGBTQ+ community to bridge that gap between our community and that of the majority. I stopped being afraid to make friends in Greek Life or sports teams and my lack of hesitation made my life so much better. I opened up and let people in and that made me a better person. Opening up, be honest with all people, and working in the interest for everyone is a message that the College Democrats have embodied at my time at Penn State. I want us after I am gone to be a prime example of inclusion, acceptance, and love, just as we have in my time at Penn State. It is my vow in my time here to help anybody who needs help and at least give a chance to each person to be a friend.
Penn State College