But it isn’t to one person. It is to a community — a community that has taught me how to love and be loved, that embraces me even when I don’t embrace myself, that is profoundly compassionate and inclusive in nature. This is my love letter to us, the queer community, the LGBTQ+ community, the ally community. I met so many of you in these past five days, and in meeting you, I met myself. And I am forever grateful for that.
This past weekend, a group of seven Georgetown students and I traveled to Chicago, Ill., for the 2016 Creating Change conference, the nation’s pre-eminent LGBTQ+ conference hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force. It is a coming together of the great minds and great leaders of a movement that asks for more, pushes for better and makes no excuses. The diversity of identities attending this conference knows no boundaries, but instead of acting as liabilities, as challenges to an established norm, identities float to the surface with the buoyancy of genuine acceptance and support. For many, this conference is the only time when they can find the intersection of authenticity and expression, when their internal being finally breathes life and finds liberation. Through various workshops, panels and brilliant keynote speakers, assumptions are rejected as limiting, and open minds and open hearts become the mold in which the conference is shaped. Workshop subjects ranged drastically, from discussions on realities of LGBTQ+ sexual violence to leadership skills development to analysis of emotional intelligence. The thousands of people in attendance were brought together by a multiplicity of experiences and ideas, but ultimately left it with one unified voice. It is the voice of solidarity, the voice of understanding, the voice of knowing and not knowing but believing. Walking into the conference is letting go of inhibitions, repression, fear; walking away from the conference is holding on to benevolence, ambition and support.
In the most basic sense, the conference says: This is us. This is you. Where do we go from here? I take with me a renewed desire to foster a movement that is both “radically transformative and profoundly loving;” in the beautiful words of a presenter at the conference. Seeing the community at the conference reminds me that accomplishing that kind of love among a wide variety of people is not impossible, and Georgetown’s LGBTQ+ community has every chance of succeeding in the same way. The issues here on campus are just magnified, specific versions of larger systemic issues that pervade society as a whole. What is also important to recognize is that the LGBTQ+ and ally community at Georgetown is just as radical, just as demanding,and just as significant as the larger movement itself, and we are well-equipped to deal with the challenges that face us.
And there will be so many challenges. But the conference was an important reminder of the force we are and of the ability of love to overcome. In the moments that brought all 4,000 of us together, there was an intangible kind of connection that transcends all linguistic capabilities and is only known by the realm of emotion. It is this inexpressible but encompassing power that I hope to recreate within the queer and ally community at Georgetown, in a room of strangers or a group of best friends, led by self-knowledge that is propelling and effervescent. I want everyone to feel there is a space for them — the real them, the self that only emerges as a dare, the self that is tired of hide-and-seek and deserves to be found.
What we must carry with us is the knowledge of ourselves. The conference is an introduction to other leaders who also pursue diversity and identity work with fervency and who actively promote the LGBTQ+ community, but it is also an introduction to you — to who you are, at the very core of your being. Workshops dissect your identity, and conversations with the wonderful community there build your identity back up.
I call this a love letter because I am writing to the community that did for me what any good partner does: It dismantled me, picked me apart and made me challenge and question every fiber of my being, and then slowly put me back together with the love and support unique to true solidarity. And I loved it for every moment of confusion, for every moment of clarity, for every moment that brought me to a greater understanding of who I am and who I want to be.
Grace Smith is a sophomore in the College.