Amy (name used as an alias) is a sophomore and an art major. She is very involved with the LGBTQIA community. She has gone to the LGBTQIA leadership retreat in Coffman, Social justice leadership retreat, etc. Today I chat with Amy about her and her involvement with LGBTQIA community on campus. Amy wants to clarify that all questions are answered based on personal experience. She cannot speak for other people and other people may have different opinions and experiences surrounding this topic.
How did you become part of the LGBTQIA community?
When I was in high school, I was still really closeted. I didn’t actively seek out the LGBTQIA community. After I got into college, I talked with people who identified themselves as part of the LGBTQIA community and I started being friends with them and their friends. Gradually I found myself as part of the community. Then I actively sought out opportunities to take leadership roles in social justice and advocacy positions. The transformation happened when I no longer identified myself as part of the community for the relationships aspect, and instead for fighting for equal rights for everyone because I remember the hard time I went through in high school, and there are people who are going through the same thing.
How was getting involved with LGBTQIA community in college for you?
Freshman year, I started coming out to people I didn’t know so well just to get my speech down. It was hard because I couldn’t just tell people that I was gay or lesbian. I identify myself as pansexual. Pansexual is something that requires a learning curve for most people. Getting the speech down was really difficult because I barely understood it myself and I had to explain it to other people. Using google to understand these concepts was really beneficial to me because afterwards I could have these conversations with others to create a learning community.
Sophomore year, at the beginning, I worked really hard to be an active member just because I wanted to find more people like me, pansexual, which didn’t happen until right before winter break and after that it took a while to find another pansexual. The process was really hard, but had I not taken those first steps to get into the community, I would never have found those people and shared stories with them. One of the good things about the community is that even if you are an active member of the community, you are still always learning and meeting people. It helps you grow as a person.
I was excited to find another pansexual because it’s just really nice to talk to someone who is in the middle of the spectrum and not at the end of the spectrum (gay or straight) because they can really relate to me. It’s different to talk to someone who shares the feelings of biphobia from someone who actually experienced it,
What’s your role in the LGBTQIA community?
I’m an ally to the people in the LGBTQIA community. I’m involved in a couple of LGBTQIA related student groups and I identify myself as part of the community more in the sense that I’m an active advocate for the cause. Being an active ally, you are instantly a part of the community. You don’t have to walk among a group of only LGBTQIA people to be part of the community; you do that by creating a friendly environment and being an ally
Have you ever encountered a biphobic situation?
I heard stories about biphobia and there is also a sense of biphobia within the LGBT community. There is a difference between saying that you’re gay and saying that you’re bisexual. Coming out as gay is much more commonly understood than coming out as bisexual. When you come out as bisexual, people say it’s a phase, you’re in college, you just can’t decide who you want to love or you’re slowly turning gay. Anything that’s not gay or straight, people make excuses for you for not fitting into the category. Personally I have never encountered someone who is biphobic, probably because I look feminine, I wear dresses and I have long hair, which is something I’m trying to change because I’m more comfortable in a masculine appearance. Anyways because I have feminine gender expression, most people won’t try to figure out if I’m gay. That’s probably why I don’t have a lot of negativity come at me. The only time I felt uncomfortable about my sexual orientation was from one of the first persons I came out to. We were heading towards that person’s fraternity. He was very under the influence so his thoughts were very straight but still, he asked me if he could tell all the guys at the fraternity that I was bisexual. There is a negative stigma about a person who is bisexual that is very sexualized. In porn, lesbian sex is sexualized, very prominent. The second that person realized I was bi, he can’t wait to tell his brothers because that would sexualize me and that would make me a person of interest to them. That immediately ended my friendship with him because he used my sexuality as a sexual icon. I’m not sure if that’s something that counts as biphobic but it counts as using sexuality for his benefit.
Why do you think biphobia exit?
I think we have come a long way from a society that was very homophobic. We haven’t made it yet; society hasn’t accepted all sexual orientations. The origin of homophobia comes from a lot of places, religion being one of them. I can’t speak for all religion but I think there is a lot of misinterpretation of the bible. Education would be helpful but it’s not going to help all. If someone has certain religious values, they can’t accept LGBT community, education isn’t going to help. You can’t change people’s values. Whenever someone uses his/her religious beliefs against me, I tell them that religion is your freedom, you can choose whatever you believe in, but don’t use that against me. I do think education could help. Human beings tend to be afraid of differences; the education of the difference might help people get over the fear. But there is still homophobia within the LGBT community. In those cases, people grew up in a homophobic environment and developed internalized homophobia. They don’t necessary accept who they are.
How would someone feel when their sexuality is denied by themselves?
It took a long time for me to accept myself. I went through a time when I just wanted to take the easy route and be straight instead of dealing with the whole coming out process. It’s very emotional and draining, constantly thinking about who might accept me when I don’t even accept myself.
How important is being pansexual to you?
It’s a huge part of my life, it’s my life. It affects every decision I make and half of the things I do in college is because I’m in the LGBTQIA community. I always think about how the things I do, jobs, etc. fit into my sexuality, how to raise the awareness of the LGBTQIA community. I’m always consciously thinking who might be accepting of me and who might not be and every new person I meet is a new coming out story. I’m always thinking about whether the conversation needs to be had. Being pansexual is a huge part of my life; I love talking about it, fight for it and let it define who I am.
If you want to know more about the LGBTQIA community on campus, click here for more resources.