Student volunteers are trained to be peer mentors for the LGBTQA Resource Center. The trainings take place at the beginning of each semester, and give students an overview of issues relating to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, coming out, bullying and harassment, and a number of other topics. Volunteers then help staff the Resource Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and are available to speak with students who need support. Volunteers also help plan and put on our events such as drag shows, LGBT History Month celebrations, National Coming Out Day, Transgender Day of Remembrance, Day of Silence, movie nights, panel discussions, lectures, and much more.
The essays and poems below were written by volunteers for our one-year anniversary celebration. They were asked to share how the LGBTQA Resource Center has affected their lives and what it means to them.
This is what they had to say:
It would be easy to say that the resource center has changed my life but in truth, it has done so much more than that. It has supplied me with shelter from a world that more often than not misunderstands me or treats me in ways that no hetero-normative person has to worry about. One would think that with all I’ve been through growing up that I would foster some kind of hatred for the rest of humanity and to some extent that may be true.
People have shown me one too many times that their capacity to hate is all encompassing, that sometimes, no matter how hard you wish for it, you really can’t fit in. That people won’t always accept you for who you are or even take the time to try. I’m sure that many of you can relate to this feeling of isolation and for those of you who can’t, consider yourselves lucky because it is a burden that only a few of us can bare without succumbing to its massive weight.
My short amount of time spent at FAU’s LGBTQA resource center has shown me a different world though. One that is full of love and acceptance. Where people don’t judge you solely on your sexuality or the clothes you wear or the gender you identify with and try to get others to do the same. For every hurtful remark that I have received throughout the course of my nineteen years and every slur that has been thrown my way, the people in the resource center have countered it with words of encouragement and hugs…so many hugs.
They have also taught me, in their own individual ways, a valuable life lesson. Sometimes the people in this world will reject you but that doesn’t mean you have to reject yourself and it doesn’t mean you have to give up. Life for many of us is a struggle and it may get better or it may not. None the less, it is our life and it is worth fighting for.
So thank you to the resource center, for allowing me to be a less hateful person.
For giving me the chance to make all of these lifelong friends.
For giving me a new family.
For allowing me to live, fully, as myself.
- Matt Vega
I’ve searched near and far for a place to rest my wary heart
I’ve traveled to and from to find a place where I’d no longer cry
I hope to escape the lies I was told and feel complete and whole
In this place things are made new
In this place time goes backward and old wounds heal
In this place we learn to open our hearts
Friends are made, while a family is formed
The doors are opened from 8 to 5
But in those hours
There are always open arms
Shoulders to cry on
And Laughter and joy to share
A room filled with love and care
A place for growth and learning
In the time since I’ve arrived I’ve had people come into my life
And change my whole world
And for that I’m grateful
Thank you Lauren and everyone who has built this center with diligence, care and love
I personally have seen the wonders it can do as I’ve grown from the quiet boy in the summer
To someone whose heart has been touched and someone who's truly happy.
- Joshua Murphy
When I was three years old, all I could really remember is how much I loved “The Little Mermaid”. I used to just dream of swimming and riding with the currents, free and flawless. I could feel like I was not being judged and my sacred ocean of imagination was nowhere near being desecrated by anyone who despised who I was or whom I liked. I remember seeing Prince Eric for the first time and how when his ship crashed, Ariel ran to his side with concern. I was so young back then, I didn’t really know what was going on. Why did she look so sad? Why did she begin to sing to him? The latter question didn’t matter too much since her voice was beautiful and it made me feel something heavy in my small chest, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I was too young to really know.
My next experience of the strong emotion and its raw power that was hard to recognize came about when I was fifteen years old, the year when I admitted to myself the truth about who I was and whom I happened to like. I remember seeing someone I cared for deeply kissing a girl, a girl I happened to know, at my birthday party. I felt something that night. It may have been anguish. It may have been fear. It may have even been sadness. I was clawing at the grass because I wanted to escape this world, back to that ocean I loved so much when I was three years old, but I cried much harder when I realized that my ocean was not so easy to access anymore. I was blinded by my tears and the shaking moon through my eyes.
After a while, I started to feel more comfortable in my own skin as I realized that my anguish, my fears, and my sadness were coming from the fact that I was homosexual and that I was scared of coming out, angry and distraught that I had to be a freak because everyone else told me that I was. As I started to grow over the years, I knew for sure that being a homosexual man was going to be very difficult and I had to hide myself from certain people so that I wasn’t attacked or afraid that I was going to be attacked. I didn’t want to be questioned, I didn’t want to be challenged, and I didn’t want to feel disappointed in myself. I wanted to be back in that ocean.
It was where lavender and aqua colored shells glittered and opened for me to show me their inner beauties and it was where I could see the light shine down on me in my ocean, letting me know that God was encouraging my path, my destiny. Unfortunately, the one thing keeping me from letting that light shine was everyone else’s voices seeping through the ocean about how I was not normal, I was ugly, and how I did not deserve to have a prince like Eric. He doesn’t exist for people like us, I thought.
After a while, I became used to the teasing and the sadness and I decided I was just going to live my life without caring about what people thought about me. I was going to put up a barrier against my ocean because seeing how the light was disturbed by those voices made me even sadder that I couldn’t have it. I would work hard, show people that I could be somebody, and live with a smile, even if I had to fake the smile. I began to make new friends, friends that showed me how to have fun made me smile. The smiles and fun lasted for a long time, until after a while, it became obvious what was happening. Their smiles were happening not because I was one of them, but because I was special.
At first, I felt comfortable with being an openly homosexual man and feeling appreciated for it, but after a while, they began to distance themselves. Their remarks were blasting with the simple ideas that I could never relate to their experiences, I was nowhere close to knowing what it was like to be accepted for liking boys. There was a certain prestige over my head that was being dangled to me like a fish’s hook with a worm. I knew that if I went for it though, I would be laughed at when I got brought to shore, because those girls knew that I was not normal and were glad that they were. I was no longer a mermaid around them. I was a fish. An ugly fish.
They got to be mermaids though because they said nature made them to be beautiful and me to just get used to it. I started getting that cramp in my chest again. I really could not identify why I was feeling so much pain. Was it hatred killing me inside? It was making me sick. Why did I feel this way about myself? Wasn’t there anything I could like? Anything? Was I really that mermaid or was I just lying to myself when I was nothing but a simple minded child? Was I really just that young? I remember the first time I attended my current university after a few more years of just feeling uncertain about myself and ignoring it because it was just too difficult to figure out for myself. I walked around and met certain people that sparked my interest. I literally felt the shock course through my veins and my face lit up like it was powered by batteries.
These people, they were outcasts like me, they were older, but discriminated against because other people also told them that they were not normal and that they were special in a way that alienated us from what is considered ideal and normal. I remembered seeing a rainbow that year. It was on a flag inside one of the rooms and I stared at it for the longest time. What was it about this rainbow I liked so much? Was I feeling something more than just liking it? I wasn’t sure. A girl came up behind me and showed me around this room. This room was a haven for outcasts like me. It was a support center for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer people as well as allies that supported us.
They asked me if I would like to help them reclaim their identities in a positive image that would be equal to those normal people. I didn’t really believe it was possible to do so, I declined modestly. After a few months of associating myself with these people, I saw them hugging each other, kissing each other on the cheek, and holding each other as they cried about their experiences. They were letting go of their pain and embracing something else. But I couldn’t figure out what it was. I just didn’t want to feel whatever that was. Was it too painful? Probably. There was one day where I dreamed about my ocean again. I wanted to swim, but I was afraid. That same girl appeared and told me that it was okay for me to swim. I asked her about the light and what would happen when those voices came back telling me that I couldn’t be beautiful. She said that those voices were not belonging to the people. They were belonging to me.
As soon as she said that, the voices stopped and then she held my hand and when I looked up again, Prince Eric was holding my hand instead of her. He told me that nothing else mattered but one thing. Love. Relentless love. Then, my chest began to heave and I just let it all go. My memories bled out into the ocean and burst into beautiful colors of the rainbow. My rainbow of the past. A past that I was able to turn into nothing but stepping stones toward a beautiful future. Eric smiled at me and said that it wasn’t important whether another man would love me or not. What mattered the most was that I learned to love myself. When I woke up and showed up to that support center the next day, I realized something. Love was indefinite, love was not temporary, it was forever. My love was beautiful. The love I was able to find for myself made me feel beautiful all over again, except I wasn’t three years old, I was twenty two years old.
- Frank Gorritz
Walking into the LGBTQA resource center, I did not know what to expect. As a straight ally, I was nervous that I wouldn’t fit in well or that I might be an outsider. I knew that I wanted to be involved with the resource center and that I wanted to help, but I was still nervous.
I was, and I continue to be so impressed with how incredibly caring everybody is at the center. Every person who I have talked to has been so loving, kind, and generous to me and to each other. If I could give the center as a whole a personality trait, it would be acceptance. There are so many different personalities and types of people who are involved here, yet all of them show love and compassion to each other. Instead of ignoring differences or being aggravated by differences, everybody seems to embrace and celebrate our differences. I have never been more comfortable in my own skin and with my own dorky, quirky personality as I am when I’m in the center.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to volunteer here. This experience is making me a better person. My capacity for love and compassion continues to increase as I watch everybody else show that kind of unconditional love and acceptance for each other. This is truly a safe zone, and I am proud to be a part of that. Thank you all for making the resource center a comfortable and fun place to be!
- Kevin Leichtman
Graduate Student, Curriculum and Instruction, Cert. in English