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Empowered to Create Change: Being an LGBTQ Student

I am an LGBTQ student. LGBTQ means lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. Here at Syracuse University I feel lucky. I have the basic privilege of being open about my sexuality. I spend many hours taking courses about queer sexuality, studying sex and gender theory and really exploring the world of social identities. This is an area of academic interest for me, but it’s so much more. It’s personal. It’s my life.

Recently, I went to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference. To say it was one of the greatest experiences of my life seems cliché, but it is very much true. For four whole days I was allowed to feel like myself, to be myself, knowing that I would not be judged or discriminated against because of my sexual identity. It was also a great opportunity to meet other LGBTQ students from all over the country and talking with them made me realize how privileged I actually am.

I don’t mean this just in terms of identity, but also the resources that Syracuse University has to offer that many other schools are still working to get. At Syracuse University we have an LGBTQ academic program, an anti-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, gender neutral housing, an LGBT living community, an LGBT resource center with multiple paid staff members, and numerous student organizations. When I told this to other students at the conference, many were surprised at how much my school had to offer.

Many students at the conference had resource centers or queer studies programs, but few had their university’s financial backing for these resources. Gender-neutral housing is another area where universities struggle to make progress. Looking back, I have to remind myself that the very fact that these students were present representing their schools, means a great deal. With travel costs and conference fees, the dollars added up quickly. Most of the students at Creating Change had been partially if not fully funded for the trip through their universities. This is a privilege that LGBTQ students at most universities did not have.

This is definitely not to say Syracuse is perfect. More than one of my friends has been physically and verbally assaulted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Our campus also lacks in the field of gender-neutral restrooms, and more than one of my professors has targeted me because of my sexual orientation. There continue to be places on campus where I am both physically and emotionally uncomfortable and yet this discomfort is never addressed.

For the most part here at SU, I am happy. I have found a queer community willing to discuss politics and theory, and although LGBTQ-friendly social spaces are limited in the area, I still find ways to have some good queer fun. Most importantly for me, here at Syracuse University I have been given the tools and opportunity I need to work toward drastic social and political change.

And that’s important to me because discrimination and oppression are very real, and not just for the LGBTQ community. I feel this on a daily basis because it has been embedded into American society. Here at Syracuse University we can continue trying to improve our campus climate, but it’s hard to feel as though we have made real progress without any true societal change.