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The GW Hatchet

AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Perspective: GW taught me that being LGBTQ+ is OK

I still remember how shocked I felt when I saw a pride flag hanging in the window of the Gelman Library Starbucks. It was displayed so casually in the center of a busy campus, across from my new first-year dorm. It’s possible that Starbucks was just attempting to appeal to its college student customers or do the bare minimum to appear inclusive. But to me, it was monumental. I come from a conservative, religious community in Indiana and graduated from a Catholic high school. Seeing that pride flag in the window, hanging so nonchalantly, told me I finally found a place that accepted me.

While my family wasn’t particularly religious growing up, religion was still part of my daily life. I prayed three or more times a day and regularly attended masses and confessions. My senior year religion course was called “The Dignity and Vocation of Women,” in which finding a husband and having children was heavily emphasized. My classmates, most friends, teachers and principal belonged to the faith that taught me my sexuality was wrong.

Being in that environment, I felt abnormal. Everything taught me that what I felt was wrong, while everything inside me told me it was right. I felt a constant struggle between believing everything I had learned since birth or believing what I knew in my heart.

Was I doomed to hell for liking women and men? Would I be cast aside by everyone I knew for it? Would teachers start to look at me with judgment instead of encouragement? All these questions swirled around my brain, making me feel isolated and alone.

I walked through my school hallways and only saw people who would think I was different or immoral if they knew the truth. Peers shouted homophobic slurs like they didn’t mean anything. I felt a constant weight pressing me down, forcing me to fit a personality and identity I didn’t really feel. As a result, I feared, hated and ignored my identity as a bisexual woman.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I started the slow process of unlearning others’ and my internalized homophobia, but I still had a long way to go and a lot of people to come out to. It was difficult to be truly “out” at my high school. Our male- and female-specific uniforms, paired with rules against bringing someone of the same sex to formals as a date and the refusal to allow for LGBTQ+ clubs, meant it was hard to express my identity.

Flash forward to freshman year at GW, and all of a sudden, it feels like everyone around me is either a part of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally. People introduce themselves with their pronouns and sign off emails with them. There’s an LGBTQ+ Alliance Organization and a Queer Media Club. My classmates openly talk about their LGBTQ+ identities, people dress how they want and feel comfortable doing so, and I have yet to personally encounter anyone at GW who has questioned or been uncomfortable with my identity.

Maybe students from more liberal hometowns don’t even notice the pride flag at Gelbucks or think twice about the fact that there are LGBTQ+ organizations. Maybe some students don’t feel that little spark of excitement when they meet a Queer professor or classmate, hoping they have found someone who can understand their identity. All I know is that for me, a girl who used to learn that marriage is between a man and a woman and that Queer people are just seeking attention, these small acts of inclusion mean the world.

Hannah Burch, a sophomore majoring in political science and communication, is an opinions writer. 

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