For four years I have helped design, order and distribute shirts with two seemingly simple words. I am. While normally associated with Coming Out Day and OUTober, these shirts have found new meaning for me in the final weeks before graduation. As I prepare to shed titles and labels, I find myself asking, what “am I” exactly?
I have had the blessing of finding meaning working in GUPride and serving as its president for the last two years of my Georgetown career. By organizing many of our events, being present in our demonstrations and passing out on the LGBTQ center couch, I earned my “Pride Gay” badge. This label then of course separated me from the “Hoya Gays,” “Collectivists,” “Rugby Folk,” and “Corp Gays” (who further can be broken down to “UG,” “Midnight,” and “Salad Tossing” Gays…). While I am sure that these labels made sense to some of us at the time, now at graduation, it seems silly to define ourselves by titles that will not make it across the stage.
Surely “I am” something that will be there for me on the other side of the gates.
Am I an “activist”?
Some people have labeled me as an “activist.” While I may meet the textbook definition, I will never forget the surprise I felt the first time I heard that term next to my name. It was my junior year, during the PBS segment that covered Coming Out Day. Back then, much like now, I never thought anything I had done here was particularly radical or activist-y. I have to confess, the only thing that I really feel like I have done these past four years include being open and honest about who I am in whatever space the universe has thrust me into.
Am I “political”?
If just being who I am made me “radical,” then it follows that who I am is also inherently political. Leadership in a community like this one instantly separates you from others and, often, from other parts of yourself. When I took a step to improve resident assistant rights, again by simply sharing my experience, more than one person did not believe the story simply because of “who Thomas was.” If I had not quickly moved with others to find other RA’s stories to show that my struggle with the Office of Residential Living was plausible given the state of the system, I honestly feared that I would be portrayed as a liar and promptly removed from my position. Many Hoyas learned that once you choose to be honest about who you are, even the most unimpeachable acts can be viewed as part of some insidious plot. Believe me, if the ricin incident was planned, I would have at least timed it to fall during my GUSA race…
What is “my” community?
The lack of good will often could be found in members of our own community. To those who could “pass” as straight, I heard whispers that I was a traitor who was making LGBTQ people look bad and “too gay.” To those who were even more oppressed by the institution, I was part of the system and perpetuating its problematic components. My reality existed somewhere in-between. In the vein of cura personalis, we must continue to elevate identities and intersections we have erased, but then seek to understand how all of our identities and contexts have shaped our realities.
“I am” my story.
The key to my so-called career has been sharing my story and the stories of those who I have walked with in my time at Georgetown. I have come to believe that being present as a queer person is inherently radical. IgnatianQ, like many events I have helped design, was groundbreaking not just because of its components, but also because it was a gathering of people who many Christians deny exist at all. Our gathering was itself a counter-point to the claim that one cannot be LGBTQ and of faith.
“We are” Georgetown, no matter what our identity. And so I encourage every Hoya, no matter how much time you have left, to be as “radically present” in whatever spaces you wish to see yourself in. Prove that you belong by showing up, make that place a part of your story. In Red Square, in the Leavey Center, even on Gaston Stage, be counted, be you and create change.
Thomas Lloyd is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.