As I sit here, I recall the time I told my mother I was gay. She didn’t seem angered by this confession, but I sensed a sadness. She told me it was alright but she was sad because I couldn’t have a normal life like others. It seemed to her that being gay left me with some sort of impairment that I couldn’t shake off.
What it means to be gay now isn’t the same as what it meant to be gay back when my mom was just a girl, but young gay people still have to deal with problems they face in society. Being a student at Central Arizona College, I can say that I have sometimes thought I was the only gay person in my classroom. I have walked alone, eaten alone, and wondered if I am alone. It sure has felt like it for three semesters.
I hadn’t realized that there was an LGBT community at this campus because no one ever really announced “Hey, I’m Gay” out loud — and who would really? Being gay nowadays isn’t breaking news and people coming out is a more common occurrence than one might think, but it is still scary to announce it to strangers, who aren’t your friends or family. CAC is a safe place though; LGBT students have the opportunity to grow as individuals academically and spiritually, and with programs being offered to the staff, I couldn’t help but feel more at ease as I spoke to Nev Kragulijevic, Director of Residence Life.
One of the programs explored last October by CAC Staff was Safe Zone training, which is an internationally known training workshop for colleges and universities who want to provide safe environments for LGBT individuals. With this training the staff was better informed about LGBT individuals and at the end they received stickers that they could put on their doors to let students know that they are not alone and that there are people who you can talk to in a “Safe Zone.” Mr. Kragulijevic encouraged students to talk to people here at CAC if they have any problems. No matter who you are, the staff is here to help, and these are people who really care about your success in life. No need to fear, CAC staff is here.
There have also been other projects explored at Central Arizona College, like the day of silence, which is a call for recognition on April 17th. On that day, people are asked to take a vow of silence in support of LGBT individuals silenced by bullying and harassment.
We also have the second chance prom, which, as Nev Kragulijevic explained, is an “alternative take on prom,” versus the typical high school event. For this prom you invite the person you are “really interested in” and you are free to be who you are in a safe environment.
At my prom I invited my girlfriend, and we went together, but we felt alone and were the only gay couple there, making us the subject of many a conversation and judging eyes. It was nerve-racking and frustrating because I knew there were gay people at my school, fun, beautiful gay people, but they weren’t there to join me or to enjoy a magical night. This is the beauty in the alternative prom; it is a chance for people to be themselves. If you are gay or straight, it doesn’t matter, because you are who you are and this is worth celebrating. So come and enjoy a night where you can hold the person you really want in your arms and slow dance to cheesy love songs among twinkling lights. The point is to have fun with people who won’t judge you based on something you can’t change, but rather, judge you based on things like an 80’s prom dress that has too many ribbons and tulle and not enough rainbow pattern to compliment it. I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on something like this, and with your support, this year you won’t have to.
I’ve discovered the college doesn’t seem like such a barren desert for LGBT individuals, but rather a place lush with a sprawling gay life that shouldn’t make us feel so alone anymore. Nev Kragulijevic says, “I think just being yourself—sometimes it can be a little bit awkward and scary,” but in doing so you “will find acceptance and celebration more than anything else.” So maybe things really have changed since my mom was in college, however we still have a long way to go. What’s so amazing is that now I see hope for getting there.
Your stories matter and are powerful because they can change someone’s life. If you would like to share any of your stories or news you think is important for the community, please share with me, Destiny Vasquez, c/o the Cactus so I can continue this column for every LGBT individual at CAC. Because you have a voice! Use it! You can send ideas to the cactus newspaper email [email protected]