To celebrate June as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, we partnered with Cogswell GSA to collect stories of #Pride from our community.
“I’m so happy to be living in a time where self-expression is more accepted. Whether it’s through outward appearance, inner identity or who we love, this era of outspoken diversity is empowering and beautiful. While I don’t identify as LGBTQ+, most of my friends are, and I love them all dearly so their hardships become my burden too, and their triumphs become my joy. My life has become so enriched with those of the community whom I’ve met because of Cogswell. I couldn’t imagine my life without all these eccentric balls of fabulous fire always there for me no matter what, and I’m definitely happy to be their Mom-friend with level advice and terrible Dad jokes for their times of need.”
“All my life I accepted that I liked boys. What I didn't accept is the flamboyance being gay had to possess. I didn't want to be a 'flamer.' I didn't want to be flashy. I just wanted to be an ordinary boy and fit in with the other boys. I despised any part of me that is 'feminine' in nature. I hated that I picked female characters in fighting games. I hated that I liked Wigglytuff more than Gengar. I hated how much I cry at the end of every Pixar movie.
Femininity was a weakness. I could not afford to be weak.
Now I am still ashamed. Ashamed that I ever thought this way about gay people.
Embrace every gay person. Femme, butch, masc, nonconforming, high heels, muscle, crop top, glitter, beard or eyeliner. You deserve to wear this title as much as me.”
“I started taking testosterone to begin my transition the same year I began taking classes at Cogswell. The members of the GSA at that time, as well as many of my classmates and professors, were an incredible source of support—not only for me, but for my husband.
Now that I'm approaching graduation, I'm more comfortable and confident in who I am, and it has been a genuine pleasure to meet other transgender students over my time here. As weird as it can be to go through college in your thirties, it has put me in the position to offer support and resources that I had to go out and find for myself to my younger classmates, and make their journeys that little bit easier for them. (Did you know that, if you want to legally change your name and/or gender in California, there is a financial hardship application you can fill out that may result in the fee for the entire process being waived? How about the fact that, if you're uninsured, you can go to Planned Parenthood for help transitioning? You totally can!)
I took a summer off in order to get top surgery. I took another off to get a hysterectomy. Both times, when I came back in the fall still recovering from those surgeries, I had friends (and acquaintances from the old GSA!) lining up to offer to carry my supplies for me until I had my doctor's permission to lift over ten pounds again. It meant the world to me. It helped me become a better person than I was when I started.
For all that drives me bonkers about Cogswell, I'm hard-pressed to think of a place where I'd rather have gone through this transition to finally becoming myself."
- Henry Kalenda
“I always knew that I would come out before high school ended. Every day I fought hard to find the strength to do so.
And then I finally came out. One hour before graduation.
It's late but it counts.”
“For the longest time, I considered myself a straight ally of the LGBTQ+ community. I attended GSA at my high school as much as possible. One time, a friend casually mentioned to me in conversation, "Hey, I know you identify as straight, but you seem like you fit into the asexual identity better." I didn't even know what asexuality was at the time. During my senior year, my high school's GSA gave a presentation about asexuality. Everything they talked about I was able to relate to, and it put facts and ideas into words that I didn't even know there were words for. Turns out I'm asexual (cool!). After that, I learned about the oppression that lots of asexual individuals have faced when being honest about their identities, and it bums me out when people try to exclude asexuals from the LGBTQ+ community. Screw them: I know my identity is valid, and I'm proud of it!”
“I always hated my appearance. On social media, you see these beautiful gay people. Muscle on muscle. Eyebrows did. Wearing expensive clothes. You see them with likes and comments and lots of love. It took me years to be proud of my body, and I am still working on it. Being gay isn't about learning about how to be beautiful. It's about learning to accept you already are, and that you deserve love.
Like RuPaul says, ‘If you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen up in here?’
AMEN! Happy Pride Month!”
“Growing up in a Christian home it was challenging for me to really discover who I was. There was always a negative light on the LGBT+ community and most of it was because of lack of knowledge and education. As a Christian, I was told by so many that God hates homosexuality. When I was a Sophomore in high school I sat in church open to what God had to say to me. In that time of my life I was really struggling with my sexuality and was fearful of being gay and looked down upon for who I was. In that service the pastor spoke of homosexuality. It was at the time that President Obama came out and publicly supported the community. His sermon was full of hate, lies, and arrogance. Fear overcame me even more than before. All that I heard from his message was that I could change. It was the only thing that was on my mind. After his sermon a man stood from the pew and said, ‘We’re with you, Pastor Brad.’ As he said that the rest of the congregation began to rise. Everyone was clapping while Brad stood there letting it all happen. I was so afraid and was unsure if I were to sit or stand. I was fighting myself, because inside I knew that God loved me just as I was, even if I was gay. I don't remember if I stood or not because I blocked out the rest of the sermon. I was in pain, I didn't love myself, I hated who I was, and wrote in my journal every night begging God to ‘take it away.’ For another three years I lived with the pain of that sermon and closed myself off from people knowing who I really was.
The summer before I left for college I was unable to sleep. I had so many thoughts racing through my head. I decided to get out of bed and began writing everything that was on my mind. It was a way for me to come out to myself while at the same time finding the words to come out to others. In the first month of college I came out as gay. I felt so free and let go of most of the pain that I’d felt for years. Over time I have become more confident, and have begun to love myself, peeling away the self hatred that was on my chest for so long. I went to Pride for the first time last summer and felt at home as I saw the community coming together in love and acceptance. The burden was lifted and I let myself go.
This past week I decided to send the pastor a letter. The words were on my heart for almost six years and it was time for me to let it go. I told him everything, how he made me feel, my struggles, the relationship with my parents and their lack of acceptance, and how I felt love for the first time in years. I did not expect anything from him, and if he did respond I knew that he was going to try and change me, but I sent the letter anyway. A few days later he responded. There was no apology, nothing that would show that he truly cared about me. He told me that his words came from love, but at the same time emphasized that God hates homosexuality. The thing that stuck out to me most was when he said, ‘There is always time for you to return to the Lord, Austin, but if you do not, you will sink deeper and deeper into a lifestyle that He will never condone, never bless, and you will experience only deep pain—no matter how often you tell yourself or others that you’re happy.’
Although the words are painful, I am coming out of it with peace. I had always thought that I made it up, or that it was not as bad as I remembered, but it clarified my memory. His response has only made me stronger and I have overcome one of my greatest struggles. I am not mad at him: he doesn't understand how his words may affect others. He is broken, and I could only respond out of forgiveness.
Although I live with depression and anxiety, and it oftentimes feels overwhelming, I never second guess who I am. I believe that God loves me unconditionally, and nothing will change that. I have broken away from those chains and am on a new path of healing. I am happy and know that one day I will find a man who loves me and [whom] I love as well. I look forward to what my life will bring me, and will look towards love and not hate.
The road may be tough, and you may fall a few times, but keep your head high. Believe in yourself and love yourself, because you are loved and not alone. Be proud and know that you are worthy of love: no one can take that away from you. When you do feel alone, remember that there are people at this school who care for you and will walk with you though your pain. They may not be able to take it away, but they are there for you. Reach out to them!
Never forget that love is love!”
- Austin Hanna
You can join the new Cogswell GSA's Facebook group to be in on future activities using this link.