Entry 2. Pivot
The warm September sun flooded Davis the weekend of move-in. I arrived with an abundantly packed car, anticipating the coming year. Many at the apartment complex occupied the same schedule as I: lugging boxes of possessions from the car and into a new home. My final climb up the stairway to my apartment came with a realization. After three years at community college and working multiple jobs, I became the first in my immediate family to attend a university. As if to signify this achievement, I wiped the beads of sweat that accumulated at my forehead and entered my new home.
Moving to Davis introduced me to others from various backgrounds and beliefs. I looked forward to this aspect when I discovered that UC Davis holds a diverse student population. As a transfer student, I desired a positive change in environment. I believed a place abundant in diversity would also bring a myriad of acceptance (a profuse amount of wishful thinking). Nonetheless, UC Davis became a pivotal point in my life and gave me the opportunity to challenge the norm.
My housemates and I moved in a week before fall quarter began. This time allowed the four of us to get acquainted with one another. The more I wanted everyone to feel comfortable in our new living situation, the more I worried about my housemates’ views toward me. Would they care about my sexual orientation? Would they judge my gender presentation? Would I feel uncomfortable? Would I make them feel uncomfortable? The only solution I saw was to exert wholehearted honesty.
One evening, we stayed up late talking with each other in our new living room. Curiosity toward my coming out story emerged, so I openly confided in my housemates. I believed their interest meant a welcoming ear of affirmation; at least, that’s what I hoped. My disclosure met their appreciation toward my truth. They never heard an individual’s coming out story before. For some, our interaction included their first time associated with someone of the LGBTQIA community.
Openness flowed from the sharing of my personal experiences and my housemates’ reactions uplifted me. It was turning out just how I desired; that all changed when one housemate expressed her unsupportive view toward same-sex marriage. Baffled by her comment, I began thinking that I shared too much, that I shouldn’t be there, that I didn’t belong. I sat there more vulnerable than ever, expressing my authentic self to complete strangers, and in return I was crushed. My fears and worries were answered. Would they care about my sexuality? Yes. Would I feel uncomfortable? Yes.
While these thoughts raced within me, I simply looked at my housemate and stated that I respected her opinion. Why did I say that? Why should I care about her opinion when she suppressed my reality? This intrapersonal conversation continued as I filled with rage and anxiety. My reaction however, rendered the only aid I received. Lack of action and opinionated oppression exuberated its presence that night. Awkwardness coated the room and my strive for a comfortable living situation was defeated.
I wanted UC Davis to incorporate everything missing from my community college. I wished for the many walks of life that came together in Davis to result in appreciation for all. I longed for a sense of community and acceptance. After that encounter, I started to lose hope.
There are many gathering places for students on campus, and the Silo represents a common one. I went there one day to catch up on assigned readings, but that task quickly changed as I noticed the livelihood around me. The smell of Indian cuisine, Taco Bell, and coffee whirled through the air; a mixture of scents that surprisingly compliment each other well. Latin music played lightly in the background and the rhythm introduced the heartbeat of the school: its students. Some gathered together on the grass, while others lined up to receive their much needed caffeine fix for midterms. While this commotion continued, I sat there silently observing.
A particular couple caught my eye. They held hands and giggled as their sandals glided across the concrete floor.
“We’re just holding hands out in public,” one giggled in disbelief.
The other replied with a simple hair flip and a bashful smile.
They approached a group of friends and exchanged greetings. They talked, they laughed, and the couple continued to hold hands. The immediacy between them then advanced as one wrapped her arm around the other. No attention was called to the exchange. Again they talked, they laughed, and then they all dispersed; the couple walked away holding hands.
I couldn’t help but feel invigorated at that moment, for them, for myself, and for all others of the LGBTQIA community. I needed a place like Davis. I needed diversity, acceptance, and safety. I feared that I wouldn’t find this after the encounter with my housemate, but there it was right in front of me, waiting for me to discover it.
My first year at Davis transitioned to a brilliant summer in London through the abroad program, At the Crossroads of Gender and Communication. My relationship with gender pushed me to enroll. The course gave me the courage and opportunity to free myself from the burden of concealment, as I desired to reveal my gender identity to others. I awaited the obstacles I would soon face, ready to speak my truth.
To facilitate class discussion, my professor assigned questions regarding course material. The first few questions situated on the topic of gender. While I prepared my answers, I realized my opportunity to express my gender identity. I planned to give more than just an answer, I would give insight into who I am. The idea burned inside me; I felt terrified, but I remembered the class created the best situation to finally reveal my hidden self. The following day I braved my fear.
“I identify as genderqueer.”
After finally proclaiming the words out loud, my whole being relaxed. I felt at ease and comforted by my ability to tell 30 strangers my most concealed truth. Moments after I spoke however, a classmate sitting next to me indicated her belief in aligning with gender roles. I’m uncertain if her intention was to counter what I said, but I concluded with that impression. My fears and worries pressed on. Would they judge my gender presentation? Would I make them feel uncomfortable? I began to feel ashamed for speaking, but I wanted to remain courageously seated, with no affect from her comment. As much as I tried to acquire my inner strength, I felt pressures of breaking down. The supportive responses from other classmates however, provided the encouragement I needed.
Several students spoke up and responded to the comment in support of me. I felt relieved from my inner pressures and carried on. I did what I wanted, what would make me most happy, and the praise I received from other classmates made it all worth it. As the summer program continued, my classmates graciously appreciated my authentic self. They became the community I extensively searched for. My fears and worries melted away.
Would they accept me for who I am?