Once upon a time, there was a girl we will call… Scarf Girl. Scarf Girl was a freshman at Concordia College and was unsure about how safe an environment it would be. Her high school did not have many great people, there were not many resources for her and the atmosphere was consistently denying her equal treatment. She did not feel like she could be herself.
When Scarf Girl got to Concordia, however, everything was different. She met an amazing person in her orientation club, thought about joining choir but chickened out, found the Straight and Gay Alliance and felt like she had come to a place with the capacity to accept her. However, while they had the capacity, they lacked the resources to make Scarf Girl feel truly welcome. She still felt like an outcast, as if there was no place for her. Every place on campus, even the bathrooms, reminded her that she was the odd one out. She was so shaken that she hid her identity by wearing a scarf. Every. Single. Day. To hide her Adam’s apple and her overwhelming self doubt.
M. Night Shyamalan plot twist: I am not Scarf Girl. She is a fictional, transgender freshman at Concordia College with potential, intelligence and a loving heart. The stigma she faces, however, keeps her from ever seeing how beautiful she really is.
While Scarf Girl does not actually exist here on campus, her story serves a testament to what it means to fully embrace diversity. Within the LGBTQ community, it is easy to focus on the subsets we are most familiar with, and if there is anything I am familiar with, it is gay men. However, to allow my understanding to stop with myself keeps me from recognizing the beauty in every letter of the acronym, no matter how small or marginalized.
Certain members of SAGA had the chance to meet with the Rev. Lawrence T. Richardson, a pastor and teacher in the United Church of Christ. Richardson is a transgender man who had an absolutely inspiring message to share. He talked about his coming out process, the transitions he experienced in mind and body and the ways in which he has seen deficits in society and done his best to remedy them. He went to seminary in the church that told him he was destined for hell, all with the intention of being able to fight harder for legitimate progress. He is a pastor, but he also serves as an entrepreneur — he started a business for trans*-inclusive bathroom products — a comedian — I laughed so hard I cried — a life coach — I cried so hard I cried — and a role model not just to trans* folks, but to anyone who strives to make their life worthwhile.
One amazing thing Richardson said that really stuck with me is the emphasis he has on the “light” in every person. He described it as a light from each individual soul that can either be bogged down with oppression, negativity and other crap or be illuminated through a full understanding of the self. He said that he trusts in his light so much that it does not matter when other people do not support his trans* identity. He lost so much during his transition but realized everything he needs is inside him. No wonder I wept.
If Scarf Girl were real, she would likely have a difficult time adjusting to this campus. She would likely have difficulty on many other campuses as well, but that is not an excuse to stop striving toward inclusivity for all. My experiences at Concordia have changed the person I am in the most phenomenal ways. We are obligated to keep striving toward an equality that gives every person the opportunity to feel welcomed at their own school, with their own friends, in their own bodies.
My name is Colin Sullivan and I am currently a senior at Concordia College majoring in Psychology, Sociology, and Spanish. Along with my classes, I am the co-President of the Straight and Gay Alliance (SAGA) and also participate in Student Government Association (SGA), Cobber Forensics (Speech and Debate), and Choir.
My passions reside within issues of social justice and critically analyzing the ways in which Concordia and society on the whole supports diversity initiatives. I long for an environment within which one’s minority status does not pre-determine their likelihood for success.
Some other random facts about me: I am a Pisces with an inability to digest gluten. I have a debilitating fear of clowns and public restrooms and refuse to ride bicycles. I am 100% Irish, a recovering scarf addict, and my speaking voice is as loud as the average yell.
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @csulliva09 if you want to chat. I’d love to answer any questions you may have 🙂