Sometimes when we hear stories of hatred and ignorance that people in the LGBTQ+ community encounter it can be easy for us to separate ourselves from it. It can be easy to think things like, “That would never happen here.” Being part of the LGBTQ+ community, I think I can speak for most of us when I say that separating ourselves from these issues is not a luxury that we have.
I asked people on campus to share their stories with me and some of them were pretty chilling. Of course, I got a lot about the usual comments that people make, like saying “That’s gay” when they think something is lame or throwing around the word “faggot” as an insult.
When I talked to people on sports teams here at the Mount, they told me about how uncomfortable it can be, especially in the locker rooms. People make jokes about how they don’t want to drink after us because they might catch “the gay.” Trust me, those “jokes” are not funny.
Several people also mentioned the hatred that comes out in class discussions. There was talk about how when we sit in those discussions, we learn who we need to avoid. One gay man said, “I have been called a fag here even while in class. I have been outed before. It’s a real issue.”
There is an RA on campus who identifies as gay. A large number of his residents know him as “the faggot.” I have talked with many of them before, and some of them don’t even know who you’re talking about when you say his name.
A student who identifies as transgender shared the following,
“My biggest problem at the Mount has by far been using the restroom. Honestly, I don't pass as male very well, primarily because I have been unable to take hormones or get chest surgery. My voice and body are feminine and everyone that meets me on campus automatically labels me as a girl, which is an issue in and of itself. I can't go into the women's restroom because not only does it make me uncomfortable beyond words, but it's also a huge step back in my transition. However, I'm quite literally terrified to go into the men's room. The handful of times I've gone in have me leaving flustered and with head ducked because of the odd side glances I receive. While I haven't had anything said or done to me at this point, I'm scared and convinced that they will happen. Honestly, the only restroom I've actually been able to use is the single-stall, gender-neutral one by Project EXCEL because it's the only place I feel both safe and welcome. Unfortunately, it's far from convenient in relationship to my classes and I can't tell you how many times I've simply and unhealthily refused to use the restroom at school because of all the things I have just described.”
Lesbians and bisexuals told me about how they have been sexualized on campus. Guys asking for threesomes. Guys telling them that they just need “a good f***” to get over liking girls. Guys telling them about what they would do to their bodies. It happens so often and it is sickening. Once a guy here made a sex joke and my response was, “That sounds a lot like rape.” He responded “jokingly” with, “I guess that makes me a rapist then.”
So often, we keep quiet about these things. We are told, “These are issues that you will face for the rest your life” or “That’s just how the world works.” Sometimes we can have trouble thinking that we deserve better, especially for those of us who have grown up in circumstances where we couldn’t comfortably be ourselves. Some of us are strong and confident, but some of us are insecure and fragile. These things can wear you down. They can break a person. They can destroy the very essence of who you are. The accepting people may outnumber the bigots, but the ones who are not accepting, the ones who let it be known that we are not “normal,” they are the ones who leave scars. They are the ones who can have some of the greatest impacts on us.
I am not writing this to make you feel sorry for us, but I do want you to be aware. Aware that this is an issue we have here at Mount St. Joseph University. I want to light a fire under you and to bring a sense of urgency to working towards eradicating these problems. I am not asking for automatic answers. In fact, we don’t have answers ourselves. How do you fix hatred? How do you educate such ignorance? I ask that you further consider these issues as well as different paths we can take to combat them. If all you can do is be our voice, than please, let us be heard.