From July 10 through 14, I had the immense privilege of immersing myself in days filled with professional development exercises and activities specifically geared toward advisors of LGBTQ+ affairs within higher education. Folks from around the country, working in various areas of their respective institutions, came together to learn from one another and from the host organization. With only 15 attendees, it should go without saying that throughout our time together, friendships were formed and nearly every person was able to share their story.
For some folks, they are the "token gay" of their institution, living hours away from any semblance of a Queer scene or community. It was listening to their stories and hearing their feelings of being unseen that impacted me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I came into this experience expecting to hear from folks from institutions where they had a plethora of resources and staff for their fully functional student centers, not people who have to fight daily for basic program funding and consistent misgendering.
While listening to their narratives, I became overwhelmed with a mix of emotions. Part of me empathized with the all too familiar feeling nearly every Queer person has felt being one of only a few out folks at work. Another part of me, the part that has stuck with me in the days following our time together, was a renewed sense of gratitude. Hearing other perspectives really allowed me to look at where I am, the folks I work with, the institution I serve, and the great privileges I have as a result. In the weeks leading up to this experience, I did not expect gratitude would be my major takeaway; maybe this trip has left me with a rose-tinted view of my current situation, but I think that’s okay.
I left this experience with colleagues I would more accurately describe as friends, a renewed gratitude for my work & my city, and most importantly, a refreshed drive for the work still to be done on my campus to make it a place where LGBTQ+ folks can learn and thrive.