Big Pride flag

FRCC librarian shares personal journey from being a lonely teen to feeling welcome and supported.

When I was a young queer, we didn’t have PRIDE like we do today. I grew up in the late 1980s and was a teen in the 1990s in New York City—back when being LGBTQIA2+ was considered more of a punchline than a legitimate identity.

People considered it something to be hidden away or shamed. “That’s so gay” was an insult, and being trans was something sequestered to the Jerry Springer Show—or played for a gross laugh like in the film Ace Ventura.

High School Was Lonely

At my (ironically) small school in NYC, we had 60 graduating students in my grade—and none of them was queer like me. (Or if they were, they certainly weren’t out.) Our school didn’t celebrate PRIDE or even understand what it was.

I was an awkward kid besides, and my high school experience was extremely lonely. I accessed the internet far sooner than any of my peers in order to connect with more people like me. It worked, but I was still isolated in my day-to-day life.

The AIDS crisis had just started turning a corner at that time with the invention of HAART antiretroviral therapy in 1995, but we had already lost an entire generation of queer elders to this disease. Those were people who would have been peers and community for me and people like me. So there was a lack of community beyond just my high school.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

This was the era of the US military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy during the Clinton years. That should give you a very good idea of how our nation viewed gay rights at the time. DADT was shortly followed by the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which denied the benefits and recognition of marriage to same-sex couples. 

You might think that a teenager who wasn’t in the military wouldn’t have paid much attention to the DADT policy—but I remember being keenly aware of it. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was all over the news. I remember not understanding why people were so afraid of us; so much so that they would force members of the military into silence over what was a basic component of who they were.

I remember being angry too—and it put into stark relief how differently they perceived us. In addition to that, they perceived the LGBTQ community as a threat of some kind—to the military! The guys fighting wars couldn’t handle homosexuals in the ranks? They were scared of gays so much that they had to legislate us from even just talking about being gay?

It was insane to think about. It was definitely a time in which I was afraid I would not find acceptance in the world—and I think a lot of our community felt the same.

Why PRIDE Matters

PRIDE word cloud

PRIDE is so important because it represents the visibility we lacked just 26 years ago. We legalized gay marriage only seven years ago in 2015, and trans rights are an ongoing struggle.

PRIDE celebrates us—all of us on the LGBTQIA2+ rainbow—no matter where within that community we place ourselves and our identities. It gives us a voice.

We need PRIDE more than ever, to celebrate ourselves and our community, to uplift one another and say I see you, and I love you.

It gives us something tangible and good in a world that can be cruel and hostile to who we are… especially right now.

Real Progress

We have come a tremendously long way from where we were in the ‘90s when I was young. Colorado has banned conversion therapy; the US has legalized gay marriage, extended LGBTQ protections under Title IX and made it easier for transgender people to access the care they need.

Colorado has our first openly gay governor. A record number of LGBTQ+ athletes competed in the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. The US has restored health care protection for gay and transgender people, overturning Trump-era policy.

We have come so very far in fighting for equality, but there is more yet to do.

Steps Back

In the news today, I see trends that are extremely concerning to me. First and foremost, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill rearing its ugly head in Florida—and both attempted and successful book bans in school libraries and school environments across the nation.

Our community is being labelled as “pedophiles”—and trans identities and expression are under threat in schools and elsewhere. Violence and discrimination against us has never gone away, although the nature of it has changed. (I’ll mention things like the PULSE nightclub shooting in 2016 as an example.)

Right now, our community is again in the spotlight of those who wish us harm. US Congressman Paul Gosar is even trying to find ways of blaming the horrific tragedy of the Uvalde shooting on trans people—which highlights the exceedingly troubling misinformation campaign so easily pushed online.

More Forward Movement

I don’t want to be all doom and gloom. To be clear, there is so much to be positive about within our community! We have far more avenues of support for transgender people nowadays—not only at FRCC but within the state of Colorado and beyond.

A new Alabama law will remove all anti-LGBTQ language from the state’s education curriculum. Here in Denver, an ambulance has been transformed into a mobile mental health clinic run by a nonprofit organization that focuses on LGBTQ+ youth.

At the national level, Dr. Rachel Levine became the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the US Senate. And as of 2021, the Biden administration overturned Trump-era laws regarding trans people in the military: Prospective recruits will no longer need to hide their gender identity when they seek to enlist.

Progress is being made everywhere—and it starts at places like FRCC. College is sometimes the first place students can go to have a supportive LGBTQ+ experience and community. And our community here is so strong!

A Welcoming Community

Times have certainly changed for me personally. I’ve found a welcoming workplace at FRCC. I feel completely supported here as someone who is both trans and gay. My colleagues have been incredible in finding me and including me in LGBTQ events around campus.

You are not alone

I feel welcomed, protected and supported at FRCC, and that is reiterated not only by my dean and the president of the college, but also our Chancellor Joe Garcia in regular communications. Honoring diversity and creating an inclusive environment is even part of our strategic plan as a college.

In addition, I was able to participate in the FRCC Equity Academy—a professional development course for staff and faculty to learn how to make our classrooms and instruction more intentionally focused on equity for all students.

It isn’t just lip service—FRCC is truly doing the work needed to make this institution a place where all students feel welcome. I am proud and happy to be a part of this campus culture.

My Advice

For allies and supportive folks, my advice has always been: Educate yourself. Be the force of change in a world that sometimes listens to allies more than it does to LGBTQ+ voices.

Do the work. We need you—now more than ever.

And for those within the LGBTQ+ community: Stay strong. We’ve got this. Change always comes with growing pains and that’s really what we’re seeing now.

The queer community has long been a scapegoat—but those who seek to harm us have a real fight on their hands.

You are worthy. You matter. You are beautiful, no matter how you identify.

Access to Education—for Everyone

I am grateful that FRCC gives the students, staff and faculty here a space to be themselves—unapologetically—and to feel valued no matter who we are or where we come from. We know that we all deserve to be here, to have unfettered access to education, and to reach for the stars.

Welcoming. Respectful. Inclusive. Together, we are FRCC.

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