BY JULIA CHARRON, STAFF WRITER
I had no intention of enjoying or learning anything from last week’s LGBTQIA Leadership Retreat when I signed up. I registered, frankly, because I’m highkey gay and my girlfriend was going. The idea of leaving for the weekend with over 40 strangers gave me enough anxiety to cry like four times. I attended anyway with a mindset of just suffering through it. However, my experience was more than tolerable.
Although the amount of social contact I endured was at times unbearable, it was also the highlight of my time at the retreat. Sharing a room with 10 people and being forced to constantly breathe others’ air was a little much, but this shared discomfort perhaps forced me to bond with others. My bonding was initially limited to sharing observations that the coffee tasted like ass-water and that the toilet seat was broken. However, as I went to workshops and listened to people’s experiences, I felt a deeper connection with those there.
The workshops taught me about the LGBTQIA+ community, the group’s history and its struggles. More importantly, I realized there is so much I do not know about a community. Despite being hella gay, I have never tried to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community. As a recovering drug addict, I have always limited my involvement to the recovery community. I relied on that community as my only source of support. However, I did not realize that my purposeful seclusion cut me off from other available and valuable resources and comradery. The recovery community offers me support in my recovery, which is amazing, but does not offer me specific support or knowledge for being the queer babe that I am. My sexuality still makes me an “other” in the recovery community.
In the LGBTQIA+ community, it makes me a member. The LGBTQIA+ community is made of people who personally know what it is like to be queer, not just that “one of my friends is gay, so I know what that’s like” bullshit. I can approach any person I met at this retreat if I am dealing with some homophobic idiot, if I want to discuss questions or if I am feeling alone. Despite the anxiety of meeting new people, I am so grateful that I forced myself to go to this retreat. If I had not, I would not have met these amazing individuals or opened myself up to such a diverse and inclusive community.
This article first appeared in the Friday, October 6, 2017, Edition of The Echo.