Why is Solidarity Week important to me? It starts with why I care so much about the LGBTQ+ community. My answer should be that because I am a Christian, I radically love others like Jesus loves them. Unfortunately it most certainly did not start out that way for me. Both of my older brothers are gay and somewhere along their journeys, I took notice of how incredible the queer community is. For a long while, I was too stuck in tradition to see that I was hurting myself and my brothers by relying on the doctrine that I had always been taught. It took me so long, entirely too long, to realize how real and incredible these people are.
A few months ago, I became new leadership of a club called Refuge, which is the LGBTQ-friendly club on Eastern’s campus. We are also the club that sponsors Solidarity Week and put in the hours of work for it to run smoothly. The first time I attended Refuge was a few months ago, after having read about Eastern’s Gay Straight Alliance in a brochure about the clubs at Eastern. I was utterly terrified about what I might find there. What if I was the only straight person there? What if they hated me because I was not as supportive to my brothers as I should have been? What if I was not knowledgeable enough? What if I wasn’t good enough for them? As I sat down in Sparrowk 111, I was met with smile after smile, and kind looks of love and acceptance.
Even when I told my story, despite the messy, ugly parts, their stares of kindness did not change one bit. In that moment, I had a small, miniscule glimpse of what the queer community feels like as they walk through every set of doors at this school and every place they go to. That is why Solidarity week was so important. It is a week that is meant to break down barriers, educate Eastern University and, most importantly, create an Eastern that is better and safer for everyone, not just those that we want Eastern to welcome and accept.
I love Eastern University. It is a place that has welcomed me and challenged me and made me a better, stronger person. This community has loved me and told me to be my most authentic self. Yet, not everyone at Eastern is told to be authentically, truly them. Some are told to hide in shame and fear of who they are. That is not okay to me. It should not be okay to this community either. It is time that we raise our voices and make it known what we think, because Eastern University has taught us well enough to recognize something as a justice issue. We need to have openly queer faculty that are not only allowed to be out, but are encouraged to be authentically truly themselves. We need to have trans- inclusive housing.
We need to have a neutral definition of marriage in the student handbook. These are not outrageous demands, rather they are demands that more accurately reflect who Eastern University is. Solidarity week meant something to me because it gave me a glimpse of what Eastern can and hopefully soon will be. It showed me that there is potential for change at this school. It showed me that there are people who desperately need to be shown that they are loved and accepted. It showed me that despite the ugly, messy parts, I can be proud of where Eastern is going. It showed me that there is hope on this campus for a better Eastern, and stronger Eastern, and an Eastern that I want to be a part of.