What’s up everyone? It is Griffith again back again with another Gay blog! In the spirit of LGBTQ+ Heritage Month, I thought I would bring my perspective of being Gay at Olin, especially since Olin is the first place I have ever really been out.
When I joined the Olinsider blog, one of the things that stuck out to me was how little LGBT specific content was on the blog. This was a huge issue for me as Olin is an extremely LGBT friendly environment and we should brag about it!
Unlike most of my classmates, I grew up in the Midwest: Kansas specifically. The area I grew up was not the wheat-farming, yokel-filled, super-religious, and uber-conservative Kansas stereotype, but it was far from an LGBT friendly environment. There were few LGBT people who I knew, and if someone was LGBT, they certainly were not open or upfront about it (For good reasons).
Quick aside: I am sure that these issues I have faced are shared amongst many LGBT individuals and I do not mean to undervalue their struggles. I think that is important that I tell my story as coming from a socially conservative place puts me in the minority at Olin.
I always struggled to fit in throughout middle and high school, much due to the internal struggle with my sexuality. I always felt isolated and alone, and I not really made my first friends until my Junior year.
It was not until this summer that I finally was able to fully accept my sexual orientation and place the label Gay on myself. Accepting that I was Gay - as one might expect - came with a lot of mental stress. I felt like my whole life was turned upside down and I was terribly worried about coming into Olin. I was afraid I would not have been able to feel like my old self again.
Prior to coming to Olin, I made a bold step for me by joining the “Gay Olin 22” Discord which contained a handful of other LGBT folks from my class. At the time, I was freaking out about the prospect of coming out to my parents (I was only out to one person, who happened to be the only LGBT person I personally knew). I made my first impression on this group of people with a rant and emotional dump. Despite this rough introduction of myself, I was greeted with thoughtful responses full of comforting words and quality advice.
When orientation came around, I found myself so busy and exhausted that my anxiety and fears were pushed to the side. By the end of the second week, I started forming a group of friends, almost all LGBT (This is the same group I went Gay Shopping with the other week). We have been growing closer ever since and helping me feel much more comfortable being who I am.
My mental state since then has still been a struggle, but it’s definitely on the upturn. I feel exceptionally cared about and loved on the Olin campus. My fears of being too preoccupied with personal issues to make friends and do school work have almost entirely gone away, as I have been excelling in both of these areas. Now, my mental battles have been more focused on reflecting on my past: specifically my experiences in school.
Let me elaborate:
When one spends enough time in an environment, it is easy to overlook all that is wrong with it. I spent so long in my traditional school environment in Kansas that homophobic slurs, the attacks on self expression, and the extreme social conservatism began to seem like the way life was. Living in an environment where many of the people around me thought of LGBT people as being less than human has a profound effect on my self esteem and value as a human being. I began to lose sight of how this was affecting me. It was not a reality of life that I should have just accepted.
Olin has given me a new perspective. Being here has helped me to realize a lot of things that have impacted me and changed who I am today. I have started realizing just how messed up some of the things were that I thought were normal.
I am currently dealing with reflecting on these aspects of my life, but I am overall doing remarkably well! I have no doubts that I made the right choice in coming to Olin! My mental state is constantly improving at Olin, and I am happier now than I have been in a long time.
I feel supported and whenever I have a rough day, I have a whole list of people who I can turn to that will hear me out and help me feel better. Everyone is super nice and I have no doubt that anyone here would help me in a heartbeat if I just asked for it.
Olin is a great environment for LGBTQ+ students and I would be happy to talk to any prospective students about it!