LGBTQ students share their perspectives during Pride Month
June’s 52nd Pride Month invites all to unite in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community, and San Joaquin Valley College is among those lifting those voices higher.
SJVC provides a space of support, safety and encouragement for all who come to pursue their education and career goals.
Three students on SJVC’s Rancho Cordova campus have stepped forward to voice their experiences as part of the LGBTQ community and their struggles and accomplishments moving through those, sometimes difficult, moments. Respiratory Therapy program students Matthew Marini and Jacqueline Lang and Surgical Technology student, Dawn Sanders, share their views.
What was it like for you to ‘come out’?
Matt: The hardest part was saying it – the words actually coming out of my mouth and not knowing how someone was going to respond. I feel like once I came out that constant ‘you’re not good enough’ was able to stop…and I could breathe.
Dawn: I don’t have a coming out story because I just started dating a woman. I’ve always had a hard time putting a label on myself; it just doesn’t seem necessary. I’ve been married twice to two different men and am engaged to Annissa; someone I’ve known for 20-years and have been together with for five.
Jacqueline: I came out right after high school. I was in the car with my mom and said, ‘You know, I think I’m attracted to women’. She said it might just be a phase and I thought maybe she was right. A couple of years later we had another talk. It was not a phase. She said, ‘Ok, well, I love you and I support you and that (being gay) doesn’t change anything.’
What influenced you to finally come out?
Matt: I came out because I met someone and finally felt like I wanted to share this person with my family. And I wanted that constant chatter in my head to shut up – that ‘you’re not good enough’, so that I could finally focus on something else rather than that non-ending mind thing. I also wanted my parents’ approval.
Dawn: I have equal appreciation for both sexes and don’t want to break them down into categories. I loved my first husband with my whole heart and some great kids came out of it. But my fiancé makes my heart happy like no one before.
Jacqueline: From an early age it was like, ‘I’m not like everyone else’. Boys were just never my thing, and I didn’t understand why. Ellen (DeGeneres) comes out and I thought, ‘Well, that kind of makes sense’ (for me). It took a little bit.
How do you feel SJVC creates a safe space for LGBTQ students, staff and faculty?
Matt: I was hesitant to go back to school having grown up being bullied a lot. But a big part was being able to be open and honest about who I am. Going back to school, for me, was to not victimize myself anymore. I felt like the moral and ethical values of this private school would be more supportive.
Dawn: The absence of tension is the important part. Everyone on campus is very relaxed. Someone doesn’t have to go above-and-beyond to show that there isn’t an issue (with diversity). I’m very open about being gay and never felt that anyone looked at me differently about that.
Jacqueline: I never thought about it, but I think they are pretty good about it. I’ve always been forthcoming about who I am, so it’s never been an issue at all. I know that the faculty has an Open-Door policy and if someone has an issue and needs to express themselves, they would address it and take care of it.
Do you find acceptance and support in the classroom?
Matt: I realize how lucky I am to come into a program and, first, not be judged and, second, find people and members of the LGBTQ community in my class. This is the first experience with other gay classmates and feel like there’s an inherent trust in going to school and feel that circle inside the bigger circle. I receive an email (from SJVC sent to all students) every month about Pride or some other diversity event if we would like to participate…like in this (article). We’ve had such a good experience, why wouldn’t we want to speak up for the school.
Dawn: I feel like it isn’t a big deal anywhere. When someone (at school) asks me about my fiancé or family, it’s the same as asking anyone else. It makes me feel like it’s not different. I’ve had no issues at school.
Jacqueline: I just feel I have a really good co-hort (class). We start the program (Respiratory Therapy) with the same students and continue with them until the end and we lean on each other for support. I was hoping to get that, and it has come together. I think you make it what you want it to be.
What advice would you give to someone in the LBGTQ community who struggles with their identity, fears or acceptance?
Matt: Find someone you can talk to; someone unbiased, non-judgmental and with good therapeutic tools. I was totally anti-therapy, but I found the right therapist who was open and had a lot of life experiences. I learned to just turn the dial from negative to positive.
Jacqueline: There are help organizations, so many avenues online to be private and talk about whatever conflict you might be having internally. A lot of cities have a ‘safe house’ for the LGBTQ community where people can go to figure out how to get out of those (threatening) situations or areas.
What are some of the most promising or pressing changes on the horizon for the LGBTQ community?
Matt: I find as I get older and more confident in my own skin it intrigues and motivates me to get more involved, especially now, with ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and the Supreme Court maybe getting rid of gay marriage. We don’t only need support from the LGBTQ community, but from everybody else.
Dawn: I keep in touch with what’s going on in Pride Month and things like that, but haven’t felt a need to jump in. I feel like you definitely need to be active if you want to make a change.
Jacqueline: The acceptance. I feel like every day it’s a little better. People are more comfortable. Kids are coming out so young as non-binary or transgender. The continuation of acceptance is really exciting.
What does June’s Pride Month mean to you?
Matt: I’ve never been to a Pride event; this might be the first year. Before I might have been more closed-minded to get involved. But the world environment has changed so much. As more people than just the LGBTQ community support us, it’s more fun than stressful.
Dawn: I love that June is Pride Month! I just wish that more people in the community could feel the same way that I do; that it’s ok to be who you are. No one else’s opinion should have the power over how you’re going to feel about the choices you make. And I wish they could feel from the outside world that sense of acceptance.
Jacqueline: I always participated in the Pride Parade in Sacramento. I had also joined a gay men’s chorus, which is open to anyone. They do a lot in the community with fundraising through their chorus performances for youth who might have run away, resources for keeping people safe and HIV testing.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.