Editorial Note from the Editor-in-Chief:
These submissions are from students and community members who have lived experiences here at Westminster College and beyond. I thank these students for their courage and commitment to sharing their experiences with us and the broader community. Please take time to read these submissions and consider them further. Each piece sheds light on a different topic. If any of these pieces have inspired students, faculty or anyone in the community to write their own Are You Listening submission, we have opened our online collection to include all submissions at any time. Please submit pieces to firstname.lastname@example.org. On an ending note, a more personal note: please be mindful, compassionate and open to learning.
I am angry. That I have to write this in the first place. That it took me this long to be angry. That every time I meet someone I fall into the habit of prematurely wagering if I’ll have to hide to avoid a preconceived notion of judgment. I have not yet landed on a metaphor fitting of how to describe what it is to be in the closet to straight people, the closest I’ve come is imaging sitting still while the world burns. It’s not so draining at first, far off maybe, and after awhile one simply runs out of water. It’s terrifying, and becomes scarily easy to bury. Secrecy has been my closest friend for too long a time. And I am hesitant to let it go and embrace the vulnerability that may accompany freedom. I was afraid to love anyone and fell in love with masking this relatively menial aspect about myself as a forbidden secret.
“You know this will be it. No more half out of the closet.” Ryan counseled me after I told them my plan. I pictured what freedom would be like. I had reached the point of realization that no one could hate me for being queer as much as I could/had. Worth it. Ironically, that thought was not a comfort as I glanced around at my peers in that GriffinQuest meeting. In their faces I saw every slur thrown my direction. Forced to face a notion that I’d long eschewed in favor of waiting for my attraction to females being a phase. I was afraid.
It was an innocent comment, said the meeting before, the kind brewed from humorous intent. Yet, I listened as all my peers laughed, a joke at my expense. I stormed out of the meeting and vowed never to return. Then I stopped in my tracks, no more. That day I sought to free myself of the burden that comes with carrying around the intent of others and trying to justify said intention as self hatred. To lay that vulnerability on the table and give everyone the opportunity to reject the worthiness of my personhood and company based off my sexuality was to set myself free. None did, admittedly, part of me wanted them to so that I could use the rejection as fodder to stay hidden a little bit longer. Shortly after my declaration I turned to the group leader of the day someone whom I had previously been terrified of letting my secret slip to, I will never forget him thanking me for sharing my truth. I found myself fighting back tears. Freedom.
At the end of the day, being myself is not yet a luxury I fully posses. It will take time to leverage all that I’ve managed to internalize through the years, this I know. Surrounding myself with people and friends that accept me and go out of their way to let me know it’s okay to just be have made it easier. I’m thankful for those who’ve brought this kind of light into my life. I’m just so very tired of feeling ashamed for who I am.