I love traveling, that’s like one of the biggest things I’ve done is study abroad. It started back when I was in middle school, I got to go to Ghana for two weeks. I started a non-profit with a couple of friends that raises money for clean water wells. We actually got to go and see the well that we sponsored, which was really good. That was my first time going abroad, and then since then, I have been fortunate to go on a couple of programs. I was a volunteer in Ecuador for six weeks, with this program likes like Peace Corp but for high schoolers. Then I got to go to Cuba, which was awesome. It was the first ASU Cuba program. And as a part of my scholarship, I got to go to China for the summer. The scholarship paid for the flight, so I just extended it for two weeks to go Thailand and South Korea.
I actually wrote two blog posts about it. I can send the link to you because that has a lot of my insights on it. It was really hard [being out] in Ecuador because I was a volunteer in a rural community, where my sole purpose there was to ideally benefit the community. They are very conservative, so after talking to people and a long time deliberative, I chose to be in the closet for those six weeks, which killed me. Particularly, there is this moment where people started adding me on Facebook, and I didn’t realize that I was super out on my Facebook, so I started to get a lot of anxiety that people would find out and that the whole project would fail, and that the community would reject me and so on. So I had to go on this trek to shut down my Facebook, but there is no internet in the community at all, so I had to go to an internet café like 30 minutes away, but then I realized that I had two factor authentication on, where you have to use your phone, but I didn’t get any text. I then realized I had to do it from my iPhone, and there is no WiFi anywhere. I had to go like three hours into this big city to try to find an internet café that had WiFi to shut down my Facebook. That was the worst day of my life. That was really hard in Ecuador. I ended up about a year later coming out to my host family and they were a little surprised and now they’re really supportive.
When I visited Ecuador about a year or two after being a volunteer, there was this little girl who came up to me and had a question she wanted to ask, but had another confident girl ask, “In your relationship, who is the guy and who is the girl?” She wasn’t trying to be rude, it’s the only thing they grow up knowing. That was very interesting.
I come from a fairly conservative and religious family, where growing up gay people were foreign and never a life my family would have wanted for me. In fact, I went door to door with my parents for Yes on Prop 8—the 2008 campaign in California to ban same-sex marriage. Since coming out, my family has really come around, though, and now love my boyfriend and treat him like he’s part of the family. I found it took some time to get used to the idea; my family realized that I was still their son, and this was merely an additional part of my life. What I think is responsible for most of the progress in this community is that 9 in 10 Americans personally know a gay person. It is no longer this creepy, abstract person on the streets, but now it’s your son, your best friend or your colleague. That is what I saw made the biggest difference with my parents and I would say that when you have people who reject the community, that’s the best advice I have: look around because you probably know someone who is gay or trans. Do you really think that horrible of a person?
Advice for people coming into ASU:
Try to meet people. It is uncomfortable to try to express identity if you haven’t before. Which, I was fortunate that in high school is when I came out. But the nice thing about college is that everyone is doing so many different things that you can go to that Welcome Event and you don’t even have to tell people. So, it is possible to go to things, like that club, and don’t necessarily have to come out to people all at once, but you can still start to find that community.
The biggest thing honestly [about getting involved here at ASU] was finding my boyfriend, which I did the first week at the Welcome Event for LGBTQ students as a freshman before school even started. Finding a solid group of friends really helps, even if they are not necessary queer. That was is something I struggled with in high school, because I didn’t have any queer friends nor any queer adults that I could look up to. I actually had a few queer friends, but they came from very liberal, accepting families, where they would throw a “Coming Out” party. This was not at all my experience. I had a really hard time because I did not know what the experience was like, and I had to look on like WikiHow or stupid things like that about how to come out. I think that finding a mix of both straight friends, that can support you, but also trying to find others in the community because they provide really good perspective because they have been through the same struggle.
–Eric- Junior studying Computer Science
He/Him or They/Theirs
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