Hickey: DisappointedWritten by Emily Hickey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Even in a time of such progress and acceptance, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community is constantly reminded of its place in this world and its lack of equality. While those instances break my heart regardless of their circumstances, my heart shatters when discrimination happens in my hometown.
I am disappointed to say that the alma mater I once took great pride in being a part of, Notre Dame Academy, is now one that I struggle to support. An unfortunate decision was recently made to remove an extremely supportive alumna from a speaking event due to her sexual orientation.
While I have great respect for others’ opinions and am well aware that not all agree with my own, it pains me to contemplate the upcoming ripple caused by this decision that will affect the current and future generations of students. True, the decision has been made and we can’t undo what has been done; however, I worry for the holistic development of those students struggling with their sexual identity. As time continues to change the social norms of our society, I had great hopes that the school I proudly called home for four years would be at the forefront of that change and stand behind me.
Entering school as a naïve, enthusiastic 14-year-old girl and leaving as a confident, empowered 18-year-old woman, I had many experiences within those walls that have helped shape me into the professional, kind-hearted and confident advocate that I am today. I owe a majority of why I write this column to that school as my confidence, values and desire to stand up for human rights combined with the exploration of my sexuality.
During high school, my confidence on the outside was so strong that I was able to battle daily with my sexuality on the inside without anyone noticing. With very little encouragement to find a safe place within those walls, I came to school each and every single day alone and constantly on the defense to prove that I was just like everyone else. While I wouldn’t trade my education for the world or the values that I gained, I worry for those students still on the defense within those walls. Had I not been strong enough to repress my feelings during those four years, who knows what could have actually happened to me. Feeling alone and ostracized because of just one piece of who you are is one of the most scarring experiences one can ever go through.
While feeling alone is terrible, an even worse thought is whether or not I would have had the same great opportunities growing up in that school had I been a self-identified lesbian at 14. So while I do remember the teachings of the Catholic church and while I am constantly reminded that most in the church, especially this school, want nothing to do with the LGBTQ community, I want to dedicate this column to the junior high and high school students still studying within those walls who feel all alone.
Whether you are bottling it all up on the inside and will continue to do so for years or you have fully accepted everything that makes up you, I stand behind you. Hundreds of other LGBTQ and allied alums stand behind you. So while the decision made recently may make you feel like you can’t be yourself, know that hundreds of LGBTQ alumnae have made it safely through after those four years.
It won’t be an easy journey, especially when you lack support from a school you attend every day, but you will make it. It was not long ago that I was in your shoes, terrified of talking to my best friends and especially terrified of talking to a teacher. I do hope that in time, a time that is right for you, you will be able to feel that confidence instilled in you both inside and out. Until that time, know that you have hundreds of LGBTQ alumnae and their allies standing strong behind you, even some from classes before you were born.
To those who read this column and disagree with my disappointment, I respect your opinion and thank you for taking the time to educate yourselves a little more on the LGBTQ community by reading my column. I encourage you to read more and gain other perspectives. We can’t move forward without education. And to the high school that I once called home, I remain optimistic that one day you will not discriminate against me or any other alumnae simply based on our sexual orientation. I look forward to the day when you stand behind us in equality, as loyal daughters we’ll ever be.
Emily Hickey is an advocate for the LGBTQA community through Toledo Pride and OUTSKiRTS.