If you had asked me two years ago to explain the sociopolitical movement that is the queer movement, I probably couldn’t even begin to articulate a response. If you had asked me to present a Queer 101 presentation to the entire Ramapo Residence Life staff, I would have politely declined, too. And while these are things that come second-nature to me now, it’s been a journey of exploration and self-actualization to get here.
Had you asked me to do any of those things last year, I would have declined because, truth is, I wouldn't have felt prepared.
How does one actually begin to prepare to speak or present on behalf of one of society’s most historically oppressed and marginalized groups? Do my personal experiences with discrimination and homonegativity give me license to educate others on issues of inequality, microaggressions and hate crimes faced by people who identify like me? Am I educated enough on these issues? Am I “queer enough” to fully grasp concepts that affect the entire community of sexually and gender variant individuals?
These were all questions that danced around my head as I began to ponder my role as the newly appointed Queer Peer Services Coordinator last year.
I had just a few months between the summer break and fall semester to prepare for my role as the QPSC. I felt eager, but I just couldn't shake the overwhelming sense of apprehension. I worried that I, an upcoming sophomore student, wasn’t prepared to take on such a central, imperative role.
Thankfully, I was honored to attend Camp Pride’s 2013 leadership camp last summer; an experience that would later become a phenomenal leadership and personal growth experience for me. It was there, in Nashville, TN that I grew close with a hundred other student leaders—individuals with social agendas to help elevate the queer community. Like me, these students wanted nothing more than to create safer and more accepting environments for LGBT-identified individuals.
Meeting students from across the country, ones who thought like me and challenged me, helped me understand the multifaceted dimensions of identity and its relation to how we are perceived and how we perceive others. After just one week, many workshops and keynote speakers later, I had a completely different understanding of identity formation and its relation to some of history's most forward-thinking movements.
It was then that I realized I didn’t have to validate my knowledge and experiences as a queer person of color to anyone, much less because of a fancy title like "Queer Peer Services Coordinator." And I didn’t have to know everything right away.
Working in the Women’s Center and facilitating a weekly confidential peer listening group for queer individuals and their allies has helped me understand that my role as the QPSC is inherently tied to my lived experiences. I also know now that I am prepared to educate others on the sociocultural factors affecting the queer community. The knowledge all comes with time and personal growth—where I am in my life with activism and advocacy—and that’s all the validation and preparation I need to fulfill my role as a campus student leader and activist.
Until next time,