Pride Week inspires students

Paidin Dermody

“Mom, Dad, I’m _____.” (You fill in the blank.)

These are some of the most terrifying words anyone struggling with their sexuality will ever have to say. The utterance brings with it the uncertainty whether you are going to be accepted for who you are by the people who should love you unconditionally. You never know if the outcome will be one of positivity and acceptance, or one of denial and scorn.

I always knew that I was different. I never had a boyfriend; I never obsessed over the cute boy in my seventh grade English class my friends couldn’t stop talking about, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know being gay was even a thing I could be. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I finally put the pieces together and realized that I am gay.

Growing up, I wasn’t educated about the LGBTQ+ community. In Catholic school we were taught the Bible, and I grew up believing homosexuality was a sin. ‘I could never be that. I would go to hell.’ This was the notion instilled within me from a young age, and my family and some of my peers at school only strengthened these beliefs, making unnecessary side comments about gay couples and their life of sin.

My experience is not a outlier—this is the way most kids today grow up. They don’t learn about the LGBTQ+ community; they are told what opinion to have of it, and it’s likely this opinion is reinforced with negativity and hate.

Once I realized I was gay, I didn’t tell anyone immediately. I hadn’t accepted it yet. What I was told about being gay was still in the back of my mind and I was scared. Most members of the LGBTQ+ community will know this feeling which I can only best describe as: you feel relief that you finally know what’s different about you and you now know what will make you truly happy, but weighing down those feelings is fear. This is the fear of not being accepted, of the relationships you’ve built over the years being cast aside, and of this one little thing that does not define you being the determining factor of if someone will continue to love you.

I told my best friend, and she didn’t leave. A bit of the weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I told her parents because I was more comfortable with them than my own. They accepted me into the home as their own. I told a few more of my friends at school. More weight vanished. I told a couple of my teachers whom I knew I could trust, and even more weight was lifted away. I started building a supportive community around me. More accurately, I started to see a supportive community was there, and it had been there all along.

What most LGBTQ+ kids don’t learn growing up is that an accepting community exists. It took me until I was almost in college to see that, and now I am at UK and I see this community all around me. I see it in the form of friends that I’ve made, professors I’ve built relationships with, and groups here on campus that advocate for equal rights and unrestrained tolerance.

This week, April 3-7, is Pride Week at UK. All throughout this week the university, along with the Office of LGBTQ* Resources, has been hosting events centered around inclusivity, acceptance and pride for all members of the UK community to attend. These events include informational sessions on specific aspects of the LGBTQ+ community such as leadership within the community and transgender experiences, a resource fair, special guest speakers and movie screenings.

As someone who identifies as gay, I see Pride Week as a week to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and to inform more individuals in order to continue to expand the community of advocates and allies on UK’s campus.

A few years ago when I was grappling with my sexuality I wish I would have known that a community like this existed. I wish Pride Week was something we celebrated in high school.

The initiative UK is taking is a positive reinforcement to members of the LGBTQ+ community that their lives matter, the way they feel is legitimate and means something, there are people willing to learn more about the community, and there are people there who are going to support them and share in their pride.

“Mom, Dad, I’m _____.”

These words don’t have to be terrifying. The world we live in has twisted this declaration through years of oppression and hate toward the LGBTQ+ community.

We should be saying, “Mom, Dad, I’m proud to be _____.” (You fill in the blank.)

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