Healing My Community

Daniel Willey This reflection by Women’s Center staff member Daniel Willey has been cross-posted from the Women’s Center community blog

Trigger warning for suicide mention; resources at the bottom of the post

My community experienced a tragedy early this October, and the ripples from the impact are still cascading across campus and beyond. I woke up that morning to several messages from friends and coworkers telling me what I already knew: a dear friend had passed from suicide.

This friend was a very private person whose spouse has also asked for privacy. In order to respect their wishes, this blog post isn’t about her. That said, I’m incredibly sad about her passing and I miss her every day and I certainly don’t want anybody to forget her. Ever. She was insatiably curious and incredibly smart. She cared deeply for her community and the students she encountered. And now she’s gone.

My friend was a trans woman and she was active in the community of queer and trans students on campus. Her death had an enormous impact on that community, and we continue to be impacted by it for many reasons. Many, and in fact most, of us in the queer and trans community live with mental illness, neurodiversity, or both, and to see it overtake someone who tried so hard for so long is discouraging at best. Mostly, it’s frightening. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey Report on health and health care, 41% of trans people attempt suicide in their lifetime. In the face of all of this, it’s been so hard for my community to see the light.

But also in the face of all of this, I’ve seen some incredible coming together. We are a community who has had to learn how to take care of each other. It can be difficult because sometimes we can’t even take care of ourselves, but when shit really hits the fan I know I have people I can be with. There are people with whom I can cry and talk frankly about how fucking bad it feels. And then we hold each other and support one another and even though we’re all having a hard time, we’re doing it together.  Continue reading

The Price of Home

A blog reflection by Joe Levin-Manning, Graduate Coordinator for LGBTQ Programs

In our society today there are numerous people without the tangible home that we label as homeless or home-challenged; but have we thought about those that are lacking home security/stability? Many vulnerable groups are on the verge or edge of losing the homes they have currently. These people include (but aren’t limited to) the LGBTQ community, lower income persons/families, and immigrants. These groups are often the subject of discrimination just because they exist.
Home is usually defined as a place a person goes for shelter, for safety, and for a sense of normalcy. Home is something we think of as both a literal and a figurative place in our society. But what truly makes a home a home? How is it decided who gets a home and who doesn’t? How do you get to keep a home that you may have created or earned for yourself?
For many LGBTQ individuals, myself included, you worry what will happen when you come out to someone. Whether that person is a family member, a friend, a colleague, or a boss. It is a nerve-wracking experience that can have dire consequences. For those that are unaware, there are many intangible things on the line in addition to all of the tangible one. It goes beyond the loss of a place to call home, which is a traumatic experience in its own right. You start to lose your self of self.
For many of us, so much of who we are is made up or defined by our homes. Your parents/families are the first to give you a set of values to believe in. At home is when you are taught to feel safe and comfortable. The security that you feel at home is supposed to make you feel strong and confident. However, these things are only true if you feel that you belong there. Even if you are living in a home you may not feel at home if you are not able to be truly and completely yourself. In those situations, is that really a home? Is this a place that you are meant to be? Many are forced to say yes because you need the physical, financial, and practical support that is associated with it. Like many others, I did not know how I could or would afford to finish college without the support of my “family”. In this situation, you are forced to hide who you are or to be someone other than yourself.
For some, coming out is a story of acceptance, love, and familial warmth. For others, coming out is a story of pain, longing, loss, and hope. The pain of rejection that stings to the very depth of your soul. The longing for an idea of how things could have been if you were born any other way. The loss of the future you thought you had or the stability and support you need. The hope you force yourself to believe in until you finally find the place you were meant to be full of love, laughter, and support. The journey and the struggles that one faces along this path will be different from the next person but all have one thing in common. They all shape us to be something more than we thought or imagined and it is the price we paid for our sense of home today.
(“Family” – the person you are related to by blood or law. Not to be confused with family – those that you chose to be members of your support network.)
Joe Levin-Manning
Graduate Coordinator for LGBTQ Programs
levinmaj@umbc.edu

This piece was written as we look forward to Critical Social Justice: Home next week. Student Life’s Mosaic: Center for Culture and Diversity will be hosting a roundtable discussion about the struggles of homelessness as it affects the LGBTQ community in many different facets.

 

If you would like to send questions in advance or submit your own story to be shared during the event please visit: tinyurl.com/shelterfromthestormstories.

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For more information on the event visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/178408295941101/