I couldn’t help but smile as I looked through the post-it notes that people had added to the prompts the GSA had put up for National Coming Out Day. They were all kind, at times a bit snarky, filled with hearts and smiley faces. The day itself had been filled with positivity. People were eating food, writing notes and asking questions. Everyone was particularly interested in reading the anonymous coming out stories from their classmates, eager to be able to understand and better connect with SPA’s LGBTQ+ community.

Coming out can be a scary process. Even though I knew that my parents and friends all  cared deeply for me, there was a small voice in the back of my mind telling me that I should be cautious. That people may not accept me. This first quarter has again and again reminded me that there was nothing for me to be afraid of. The world can be daunting for LGBTQ+ people. I want to work to make sure that SPA is not. It has become evident that this is not just my personal goal, but one of SPA as a whole. We are taking great strides forward to making SPA a place where all LGBTQ+ students may strive to be successful in every aspect of their lives without having to worry about their identity being used to hold them back.

SPA has these thoughts of inclusivity and compassion floating around in its mind, but now we need to make them into a reality

“Just be like, ‘Whatever we’re still pals dude”.”

“Don’t change the way you act around them now that you know their sexuality.”

“Let other people come out on their own.”

“Everyone has a story and they are interesting because we are human. Listen!”

These post-it notes truly bring out the basis of how we can support LGBTQ+ students and everyone in our community. Someone’s sexuality or gender doesn’t change who they are, they are still the friends and classmates that you’ve always known. You don’t need to treat them differently or act differently yourself; show them compassion and support.

Let each person come to know themselves. It takes time for each of us to understand ourselves and that can take longer for some people than others. It’s a personal process and if your friend shares an important part of themselves with you, you aren’t the one who should tell the world, let your friend understand their own place in the world and decide when they want to share that with others.

SPA has these thoughts of inclusivity and compassion floating around in its mind, but now we need to make them into a reality. So now I have a challenge for all of you. Match your actions with your words.

Push yourself to learn more about issues you don’t understand, so that you can better connect with your classmates. We can do this by listening to others, asking questions and leaning into that feeling of discomfort surrounding tough conversations.

Normalize talking about the LGBTQ+ community and LGBTQ+ issues. When we create a community where being LGBTQ+ is no longer seen as outside the norm, then all students will be able to feel normal and included. This means reading books by LGBTQ+ people, talking about LGBTQ+ issues while remembering that people in our community are affected by them, and allowing LGBTQ+ students to be people, not just LGBTQ+ people .

Be kind to each other. This seems like such a simple idea, but it can be the hardest to follow. Trust that we hold no malicious intent towards each other.

If we can achieve these three goals then we take three steps closer to a community that we may all be proud of and participate in, one where we may all be supported.