Author: Carlos Dos Santos, C’17
It’s no secret that Penn has a huge LGBT community. We are considered one of the most LGBT-friendly schools in the nation.
It’s interesting to note the fact that I’m writing this in the first place. Before coming to Penn only a few months ago, I was afraid of even writing about my sexuality. There was absolutely no documentation of it—I either kept it to myself or ripped it all to shreds. That goes to show how far I’ve come here. That goes to show how powerful an accepting environment is for an individual, and how truly powerful and motivating Penn’s campus has been for me. From not being able to talk about it, to coming out to people at Penn, to coming out to my parents and friends, to writing a blog post about sexuality.
And I’m not the only one. I’ve been surprised several times by other freshmen whom otherwise seemed very comfortable with their sexuality, only to discover they had, too, only just come out once they had gotten to Penn.
I don’t think people understand how important development of one’s sexuality is. Not knowing, not being sure, living in self-denial, is walking through a tunnel without any light at the end—the light is in our minds, it is what we want and desire, how we wish things really were in the world—and even that many of us feel compelled to push back to the farthest depths of the subconscious. It is, for us, the epitome of oppression. It is what chains us to the bottom of a tank slowly rising with water.
Without the sense of understanding and acceptance I’ve come to know at Penn, I hardly know where I’d be now. Would I be out? Would I have accepted myself for who I am? I doubt it. I think, of all the things for me to be grateful to Penn, it is the community that has come to see no difference between different types of sexualities. The acceptance isn’t just within the LGBT community, but within all of campus. It’s a chosen blindness—people here choose not to care about such trivial matters.
Penn has become a home for me, in large part because it has made the transition of coming out so much easier. It gave me a support group when I was preparing to come out to my family and friends back home. It introduced me to people I’ve become close to, and will continue to call my closest friends for years. It continues to inspire me, and other LGBT students, to fight for change in the world. Penn’s doing a great job of that, too. The LGBT center here isn’t just a place for acceptance, but also a huge player in the realm of LGBT politics and LGBT rights. We will continue to fight for LGBT rights, because they are necessary. The safe haven this university offers only exists, unfortunately, within the bounds of University City. Outside exists another world, one with different people and different beliefs. Out there, there is much less acceptance and tolerance. The pressure to be “normal” is suffocating. It takes years for some to come out. Some never do. And all the while they contemplate to themselves, “But why can’t I just be who I am? Why can’t it all be easier?” The LGBT community suffers from depression, anxiety, consumes more tobacco than the average population, and the rates of suicide are through the roof within the LGBT population. Clearly, the consequences of intolerance within our culture can be serious—even fatal. Penn sees that, and knows it well. Many of our own experiences provide motivation to fight for those who feel like they cannot speak.
And so, we beat on, boats against the current. The rivers will rise, they will flood, they will threaten us, and they will endanger the entire LGBT world. But for all the rivers in the world, here stands Penn, one of many places still fighting for human rights, and here it will stand.