Navigating your gender identity can be a complicated task, but there is a community to be found at Iowa State for doing so.
E*, a sophomore in design, explains their background on discovering their own gender identity and the impact Iowa State has had on them.
“Growing up in Ames, a diverse community because of its connection to ISU, I had a lot more opportunities to explore not only what was out there in the world, but also get different perspectives on what can go on internally as well,” E said.
While E was lucky enough to grow up in a somewhat diverse community, that does not mean being a part of the LGBT+ community was always easy and widely accepted.
“One thing I've learned over the years is that you never come out just once,” E said, “The first person I straight up came out to was my gym teacher when I'd asked her if I could use the alternative locker room to change.”
Coming out can mean different things for different people, but the sociology dictionary online defines it as, “The social, psychological, or political process and act of recognizing and acknowledging a sexual or gender identity within oneself and disclosing this to others.”
E explained how difficult the coming out process can be.
“There were times I wanted to shout it from the rooftops to get it over and done with, and times when I wanted to tell each person individually to make it special […] There wasn't an immediate ‘okay we're on board’, but there also wasn't a big fight either. It was, and still is, a slow coming out, a slow process,” they said.
E recognizes that coming out is a process, unique to every individual. No specific pace is required.
“I'm not out completely, I've still got around a good 3/5 of my body still in the closet, but I'm being allowed time to work things out my own way, which now I realize that's the way I'd like it to always be,” they said.
Iowa State offers various ways to find your place in the LGBT+ community on campus. E comments on this.
“I know about the clubs, programs and all the help they offer for LGBT+ students, which is really, really great. But I've also found that I meet more people from the community naturally as well,” they said. “There are times when people say ‘I've never met a gay/trans person before’ and to that I've also heard the add on, ‘that you know of,’ Knowing this, and knowing what ISU has for LGBT+ students, it's clear to see that there are multiple ways to find community.”
One of those ways is through The Center at Iowa State. According to their website, The Center’s mission is to develop, “academic and personal success, community, and leadership for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, and allied students.”
They also have a vision of, “an inclusive Iowa State University free of oppression in all forms, where socially-just practice inspires community engagement, leadership, and equity.”
This statement has been adapted from vision language at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee LGBT Resource Center and the University of Michigan Spectrum Center.
E gives advice not only for LGBT+ students, but anyone.
“Get involved. Be as proactive as you can and work to make a genuine connection with those around you. For anything you're interested in, whether it be LGBT+ related or something else, put yourself out there first and others will too,” they said.
While finding inclusion on campus can be difficult, E is hopeful.
“It can be intimidating to see people who look established in their communities, which can lead to the thought that there's no way in, but there is. ISU is known to ‘have a club for everything’ and it's up to you to respond to that outreach,” they said.
*For privacy reasons, this individual has chosen to go by "E"