I can see queerly now, the rain is gone

Dur­ing the Young Lead­ers Insti­tute 2014, my world dras­ti­cal­ly changed. Peo­ple shared sto­ries that cap­ti­vat­ed, touched, and slight­ly even hurt me, because of the grue­some real­i­ty of some of my peers’ expe­ri­ences. Enter­ing the train­ing room that day about five min­utes late, as I usu­al­ly do, I had no idea what to expect. I looked around at my twelve oth­er peers and real­ized that each and every sin­gle one had a sto­ry that I des­per­ate­ly want­ed to learn. Some of them were dressed in a way that I had nev­er seen, while some of them gave off an eclec­tic vibe, and some matched my eager­ness with wide eyes and ten­der smiles. As the days of train­ing went on, I learned more and more about the strug­gles my LGBTQ–identified peers faced on a dai­ly basis.

The part of the train­ing that impact­ed me most, as an ally, was when the group was split up and moved to two sep­a­rate rooms. One group con­sist­ed of those that iden­ti­fy as gen­der IMG_0099non-con­form­ing/­trans*, and the oth­er group con­sist­ed of allies. When the two groups came back togeth­er, we dis­cussed impor­tant infor­ma­tion con­cern­ing sex­u­al­i­ty and gen­der iden­ti­ty that allies should know, as agreed upon by the group of gen­der non­con­form­ing and trans* indi­vid­u­als. We dis­cussed ally­ship and explored ways in which allies can offer sup­port while keep­ing the focus on gen­der non-con­form­ing/­trans* indi­vid­u­als. We learned that the voic­es of allies should not detract from the sto­ries and expe­ri­ences of gen­der non-con­form­ing and trans* com­mu­ni­ties.

I real­ized that the more I heard them speak, the more they were describ­ing my very own cam­pus project, which is to enable a safe space envi­ron­ment on the cam­pus of Texas Tech Uni­ver­si­ty. The devel­op­ment of a safer cam­pus envi­ron­ment will be achieved by form­ing bonds with fac­ul­ty and LGBTQ-iden­ti­fied stu­dents and pro­mot­ing events and aware­ness talks by the Gay Straight Alliance at Texas Tech. I had no idea that some of the approach­es my project was using were exact­ly what my YLI peers were cau­tion­ing against! Over the next few days I mus­tered up the courage to be hon­est with myself and rec­og­nize that I real­ly did not know any­thing about the way my project should be approached; I had been look­ing through the same nar­row lens that my peers had said felt mar­gin­al­iz­ing.

Dur­ing the 3‑day Insti­tute, I met with beau­ti­ful indi­vid­u­als, inside and out, who taught me what accept­ing one­self and the strug­gle-filled jour­ney to achieve inner peace real­ly means. I learned that I want to be an ally; my peers’ def­i­n­i­tion of ally, not society’s def­i­n­i­tion. I observed their hum­ble­ness their kind­ness and their strong-willed per­son­al­i­ties; they taught me to embrace art, love, and good vibes. Over­all I have learned that I am just an ally. These are their sto­ries, their strug­gles, and their fights. I am sim­ply here to sup­port them. In a metaphor­i­cal sense, my rain shouldn’t cloud their skies.

YLI 2014 changed my views on so many things. I not only walked out more aware of my sur­round­ings, but more aware of myself, my goals, and my aspi­ra­tions. I gained a stronger under­stand­ing of the mes­sages I want to make clear to those in my cam­pus com­mu­ni­ty about accep­tance and sup­port and know­ing when to take a step back, because the voic­es that need to be heard are not those of the allies; they are those of the LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ty.

Texas Tech Uni­ver­si­ty