From afraid to confident: having the courage to be an advocate

From afraid to confident: having the courage to be an advocate

by Charlotte Barnett

When I was 15, I was outed as a lesbian to my parents by a girl I was dating at the time.  While the experience strengthened me, and my relationship with my parents, it was only part of a very difficult period in my life, centered around the reactions of others to my sexuality. Thanks to loving friends and family, I’m no longer afraid of anyone knowing my sexuality.  I think that the safety and nurturing of this community has provided me with reserves of self-confidence and courage that I will be able to tap into for the rest of my life.

As I look forward to graduation, however, I am reminded that this shelter is not ubiquitous.  I currently live in Indiana, and I am moving to Virginia in a couple of months.  Both of these are states where I can be fired from my job if my employers find out that I’m gay.  These states are not exceptional.  I can’t marry or even have a civil union in many states in the U.S. and most countries in the world.  I can’t even be sure of a welcome from the very religious communities that I grew up in.  If I should decide that I’ve had enough of the wide world and return to Goshen College, I will not be given a job, no matter how qualified I am.

This used to make me very angry and depressed.  Although I still struggle with the unfairness, not only of my own situation, but of the situations of millions of others who never even got a chance and aren’t able to escape, I have also realized that I am not completely powerless.  Much of the hate and fear directed at me and the lesbian, gay, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, allies and asexual  (LGBTQIAA) community is due to ignorance, some of it willful,  some not.  The antidote to ignorance is knowledge, so I have spent my last four years at Goshen doing my best to raise awareness and speak out for the silenced.  To this end, I invite you to come learn with me and the Advocates club this Saturday, March 26 in NC 17.  We will be talking about everything from basic vocabulary, to the mysterious “transgender,” to systems of oppression. We will also have an opportunity to write to an authority figure of your choice at the end, if you feel so led.  The courage to engage is not a solo activity, so feel free to bring your more cautious friends.

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