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The Catholic university where I work is making strides to be more inclusive in its views, and how it treats its students. The university offers several programs that not only acknowledge differences, but embrace them.
Several years ago, the university allowed a group of students, staff and faculty to come together to form the Rainbow Educators. This group works with organizations, departments and faculty to perform outreach and education on topics from understanding privilege to intersectionality to LGBTQ+ 101. Since its inception, the Rainbow Educator program has assembled around 20 presentations.
This year has been a year of change and advancement as the university added a university-funded LGBTQ+ Commons, with a dedicated staff member. In addition, the university has also been converting several restrooms to be all gender.
About a month ago, now, someone vandalized the all gender bathrooms in several buildings. There were several messages sent out from the administration as well as from student support organizations offering both counseling and support for those who felt threatened, or depressed, or pretty much any other emotion except the one I expected about what happened.
Anger. When I found out what happened, I was angry. I wanted to find who did this and make them clean it up. What happened after that depended on the amount of contrition. I really didn’t understand the hurt, the depression, the rejection.
And then I remembered where I was, and what it was like for me in college. And while the viewpoint toward the gay and lesbian community has changed, the attitudes toward transgendered, Ace, and other sections of the LGBTQ+ community have not.
I asked myself if I would have reacted the same way when I was college age if something like this happened then.
And the answer is yes.
But, I hold something that many of the LGBTQ+, specifically of the TQ+ do not. I have privilege.
That led me to a startling realization of how different things are today in the fight for equal rights.
We could not have arrived at where we are today without the Lesbian and Gay men fighting for the rights we have. But what I realized, is a simple truth of intersectionality: we as a Lesbian and Gay community fought for the marginalized aspect of our person using the privileged aspects of our person. I could get angry and take action. I could protest. But the simple fact of the matter is that when the protest ended, I didn’t have to fear being ostracized because ‘I could not pass’ for the gender I presented as, or other issues that people face whose gender identity and biological gender are at odds. I faced other challenges, and I don’t minimize those. I faced discrimination, I lost jobs because I am gay. I have experienced both physical and verbal assault for being gay. However, really truly, I chose to put myself in those situations.
I used to laugh at the joke about college kids being snow flakes and needing safe spaces.
But now, I realize that our college students face a very different world, and a very different fight in the march to equal rights. They deserve our respect and honor for the voice they give, and the light they shine on issues facing people of all persuasions, and an acknowledgement they fight not for an aspect that can be tucked away or hidden from view, but for an aspect that is visible, one that every day they must live out, without a choice — because as we all, collectively, say, we are born this way.