Friday, March 21, 2014

The Importance of Community

I crave community. When I first came to college, I was overwhelmed by how comfortable it felt for me to be open about my queer identity. Compared to my hometown, Austin felt like a daily pride festival, and I quickly dove head first into the queer community here. By the end of my first semester, I had found a family, friends, and a community. I joined several queer organizations that I dedicated my free time to. And I happily began to shed the negativity that I had internalized from bible-belt, Texas.

Many people I talk to within the queer community who come from much smaller towns in Texas share the negative experiences they have had from being LGBTQ+ identified in the south, and feel like their negative experiences have attributed to their current involvement in queer activism. I personally come from an area of Texas where I didn't feel comfortable being out in high school. Even now, I worry about going back to my hometown because I know there are people who are openly homophobic who I wouldn't feel comfortable running into. When I came to UT, I experienced what it was like to be in spaces where my identity was not only accepted, but celebrated. I haven't been without negative experiences, and coming out is still an ongoing process (something I have to navigate depending on who I'm with, where I'm at, and what environment I'm in), but I know that despite the imperfections, I am grateful to be part of a city that is so different from the town I came from. 

It doesn't feel like queer organizations in the south get enough credit for the wonderful work they're doing. Fighting for equal rights, community, and freedom to just express identity and queer relationships is so important, and fighting against homophobia and transphobia is especially difficult in zones where it's difficult to simply exist. As I continue my work in Peers for Pride, I always have 17 year old Maggie in my thoughts, and I wonder how many people feel like they're stuck in a town without any resources or support. I am grateful for this space, for Peers for Pride, for the Gender and Sexuality Center, and for the people who make up the queer community here.

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