BY KATE PIERCE
AND BRIANA SPINA
When discussing safety on campus, how often have conversations involved the safety of students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community? Identity, the LGBTQ+ and Ally organization on campus, hosted a conversation about student experience in transition from high school to college. The event was held in lieu of their regular weekly meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5.
“I strongly believe Identity plays a huge role in the campus community,” said Alyssa Palmer, the president of Identity. “Many students may not have had an organization like this in their high school. Many students may be struggling with their identity, or maybe haven’t come out yet. Identity is a place to express yourself in any way that you feel comfortable without being judged or disrespected.”
Hunter Hitchcock, a sophomore and treasurer of Identity, gave a presentation on his experience in transitioning from female to male, and transitioning from his high school, North Warren Central, to Saint Rose.
The presentation began with a viewing of Andrea Gibson’s video “Your Life” on Youtube. Hitchcock then shared statistics about how members of the LGBTQ+ community are more at risk to face bullying, and receive less support from high school faculty. He also presented research claiming that with the proper support and inclusive attitudes, students in the community have reported a higher morale and desire to learn.
Hitchcock shared his personal story of coming out as transgender when he was a junior in high school. He faced fall out from some of his family, and encountered further obstacles as he was nominated for prom king.While navigating discrimination in the way of death threats, falling outs among family and friends, and forced advocacy for himself at school – he also battled with his self esteem.
“I hated every aspect of my existence and I went to extreme measures because of it, said Hitchcock. “I think the best advice I could give myself would be to be more gentle with myself.
This body is the only one I have, and I need to protect it accordingly.”
Hitchcock also said he would like to be kinder to himself.
“Some days, anxiety and depression took over and then I would be angry at myself for not doing enough that day or for not being resilient or strong enough to get over it,” he said. “It is okay to have a bad brain day. It’s only a day, maybe a week, but not a bad lifetime.”
Ultimately, Hitchcock said that during high school he was surviving, and now at Saint Rose he is thriving.
“Sharing my experiences with people is what I am supposed to do,” said Hitchcock. “ I have faced all of these events in my life for a reason and what good would it do if I didn’t use a platform like this to share with others my experiences that have made me the person I am today.”
Though college is generally safer in regards to LGBTQ+ bullying, Hitchcock said that many students within the community report that they are being bullied in college, and transgender students are at the highest risk. A difference that has helped with creating a supportive college environment for LGBTQ+ students is Pride Week, an event that is a rarity among high schools.
Hitchcock’s parting words to the audience were “don’t be a bystander.” He shared tips on advocacy, putting emphasis on student government. Students, he explained, have a lot more power than they may believe. Organizing in efforts towards inclusivity in schools has proven to be effective in keeping LGBTQ+ in school and feeling safe.
After sharing his personal experiences, Hitchcock opened the floor for other attendees to share their experiences. Students shared some of their coming out stories, and the reliefs and challenges they have encountered since arriving at Saint Rose. One topic included the changing of preferred names for college materials like class rosters and student IDs.
“During our meetings we are constantly informing our members of resources and outlets available on and off campus, said Palmer. “We are extremely supportive in seeking information on specific resources if our members request it.”
Identity also brings in outside organizations from the Albany area, and this year they have invited In Our Own Voices and Alliance for Positive Health to come to campus.
“Having our members know what other resources are available to them outside of campus is important to us,” said Palmer. “Identity also strongly encourages our member to use other resources on campus. We really try to cater to what our members want to know more about or discuss.”
Hitchcock said his advice for students going through an experience similar to his is to not hold themselves back.
“Every part of you, even the dark parts, make you who you are and you shouldn’t be afraid to share yourself with the people around you, even if it’s only to the select few who you have claimed as your chosen family,” said Hitchcock. “Your identity isn’t something to hide, to be ashamed of, to brush under the rug. You are human and you are beautiful.”
Identity meets regularly every Thursday from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in Albertus Hall 206