Story by Kati Doering, The Saint Reporter
Image courtesy of aquinas.edu
(Disclaimer: my experience is not a universal representation of any former or current LGBT+ students at Aquinas.)
I knew I was different all the way back in elementary school. I had a big, fat crush on Disney star Hannah Montana. It was very minimal at the time, and I didn’t think much of it until I started middle school. That was the age of frequent three-day long relationships . If a classmate had a boyfriend, I wasn’t jealous of her for dating the guy; I was jealous of him. I didn’t know what these feelings were so I constantly repressed them into the back of my mind.
It didn’t help that I had been forced to attend Mass weekly, along with Catechism, for the majority of my life. The director of the Catechism program sat my class down one day and told us the evils of homosexuality. He looked me right in the eye and told all the eight and nine year old students that anyone who likes someone of the same gender will be going to burn in Hell. It was like he knew my secret. From that moment on, I hid my sexuality in order to make God and everyone else happy, even if it meant I would hate myself for the next eleven years.
I had panic attacks about going to college for months before orientation. I was terrified that people would ostracize me like I had been in high school. I just wanted people to like me for who I was. Fortunately for me, Aquinas became my safe haven. I came out to a few of my closest friends after orientation and in turn, they immediately became my support system. Eventually, I expressed my secret to even more friends and acquaintances who also showed undying loyalty. At the end of my freshman year, I formally announced my sexuality on the Day of Silence, which is a day where advocates do not speak in order to garner support for bullied LGBT+ youth that cannot raise their own voices. I received wonderful responses from family and friends and everyone in between. This was something I thought would never happen in my life.
There are still people around campus that give me weird side-eye glances or are obviously uncomfortable with me because of one minuscule aspect of my life. Fortunately, this is only a minor portion of the treatment I’ve received during my time at Aquinas. I’m actually proud to say that after becoming friends with supportive students and loving faculty members, Aquinas has helped me become more comfortable with my true self, someone I will never hide in the closet again.