WestSide Story

Hidden and Hurting

Eli Sorensen, Reporter

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 I entered the library one afternoon to speak with a student about a unique struggle she was facing. I found her reading alone.  When she saw me arrive, she stood to help me find a location to begin our conversation. She gradually became somewhat nervous and on edge. The topic of our discussion was an unnecessarily sensitive one. She wanted to tell me her honest thoughts, but she was hesitant to do so. “I’m not sure if I feel comfortable to do this here,” I recall her whispering solemnly. Her words mirror the quiet desperation of too many students that walk the halls of Skyline every single day.

  When we had finally found a secluded space to speak in secrecy, she was still at a loss for words — and so was I. This brilliant girl, who I’d known to be an eloquent speaker for all of my life, was afraid to open her mouth. Eventually, I was able to coax the words out of her. She had countless answers, yet lacked definite solutions. The issues I asked her about were incredibly complex, so I didn’t expect her to have an infallible resolution for any of them. What I wanted — and what I got was an important perspective about a private difficulty that many of our peers harbor every day. A battle they feel forced to fight alone.

  “Living your life as a lie takes a toll on you,” she explained. “I’m trying to live my truth. I’m not trying to change your views … It’s not a political statement, it’s who I am. I’m trying to exist as myself, and I can’t currently do that without unsolicited hostility.” Who is this girl, who feels unprotected, unsafe, even unloved? She isn’t disabled. She isn’t broken.  She is just like everyone else. However, she is lesbian — and for this reason alone, because of this single difference, she worries. She worries every single day, and carries not only the weight of school and the stress of her responsibilities, but also the strain of identifying with a sexuality other than our community’s accepted norm.

  Diversity has marginalized people before. Despite this, we have set aside differences countless times and made progress towards a broader spectrum of acceptance. Moreover, so many of these discrepancies have been gauged unfairly, being given unnecessary attention. Augmenting a single aspect of anyone — whatever that  distinction may be — creates superfluous issues. It has happened (and continues to happen) with issues like difference in religious preference, ethnic background, political affiliation and cultural variation. Conflicts created by these contrasts have been overlooked before — so why, then, is acceptance for our LGBT classmates so difficult to come by? If we have made the effort to respect dissimilarity before, what prevents us from doing it again? Most, no matter who we are, need to stop caring about the sexual predispositions of another, and start caring about giving people around us the respect they deserve. If we expect others to reciprocate, we first need to demonstrate.

  If this lack of regard is creating a crux for our colleagues, to whom does the responsibility fall to begin solving the matter? Surely, if the problem is as extensive as I assert, substantial attention is being devoted to the denouement. What is being done to carve out an environment in which students grappling with these complications can finally feel comfortable sharing their struggles?

  Nothing. At least, that’s what it seems.

  While many students’ sexualities are kept private and under wraps, what isn’t a secret is the predominant affinity towards the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in our area. The effect that this can have on the perception of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals is well-known — religion in general, in Idaho Falls especially — is known to stigmatize sexuality as a whole, independent of orientation. This shameless discreditation is a common obstacle for LGBT people in our community.

  “At church [after coming out], I felt horrible,” a male junior noted. “I felt like an abomination. I felt like a lie … I could read them — everything about them — from their body language, to their expressionistic eyes, to the way they stopped smiling at me. .. I was so hurt, so broken, so lost. I did have one thing to lean on, though: my friends. This was when true friendship was displayed, because, as I walked down those hallways, when I found the energy to smile, they glanced away. Over a short amount of time, every single friend I had, who all happened to be members of the church, let me fall.” The story this student shared with me is hardly uncommon. Generally speaking, the supposed “options” presented to our LGBT classmates are either to come out, or to live a lie — and if you do come out, live your truth alone. On the outset, this seems an issue of difference in sexuality — but at its core, the problem is much more nuanced. There is a definite absence of reverence towards the rising LGBT culture. In the case of the Church of Jesus Christ specifically, the unspoken disregard that it can often exhibit towards this contemporary group of individuals is ironic, considering its history of persecution during its inception. At one moment in time, this church craved the same sense of belonging in a world that refused to accept its own unique differences, yet it too often appears as though they themselves do not wish to offer that same acceptance towards others.

It does not come down to political stance, religious belief, or personal preference. No matter what truths you hold close to yourself, it is clear that those truths are much more difficult to continue to grasp when they aren’t accepted by the rest of those around you. A striking amount of people within the halls of Skyline are lucky enough to be on the inside of some circles, yet they fear offering their peers similar opportunities. While it is true that a large number of these outsiders identify as LGBT, there is a greater amount of people with other, similar differences that also feel they don’t and can’t belong as themselves. These pariahs are tossed aside under the label of iniquitous, sinful, or even criminal — yet the greater transgression is their unabashed exclusion. Before we attempt to condemn others for their offenses, perhaps we may begin by regulating ourselves first. Perhaps, we can lead ourselves towards a more inclusive future.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Diversity has marginalized people before. Despite this, we have set aside differences countless times. In the past, we have made progress towards a broader spectrum of acceptance. We gauge many of these discrepancies unfairly, giving them unnecessary attention. Augmenting a single aspect of anyone — whatever that  distinction may be — creates superfluous issues. It has happens with issues like difference in religious preference, ethnic background, political affiliation and cultural variation. We have overlooked such conflicts created by these contrasts before. Why, then, is acceptance for our LGBT classmates so difficult to come by? If we have made the effort to respect dissimilarity before, what prevents us from doing it again? No matter who we are, need to stop caring about the sexual predispositions of another, and start caring about giving people around us the respect they deserve. If we expect others to reciprocate, we first need to demonstrate.

 

 If this lack of regard is creating a crux for our colleagues, to whom does the responsibility fall to begin solving the matter? Surely, if the problem is as extensive as I assert, substantial attention is being devoted to the denouement. What is being done to carve out an environment in which students grappling with these complications can finally feel comfortable sharing their struggles?

 

 Nothing. At least, that’s what it seems.

 

 Many students keep their sexualities private and under wraps. However, what isn’t a secret is the predominant affinity towards the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in our area. The effect that this can have on the perception of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals is well-known. Religion in general, in Idaho Falls especially — is known to stigmatize sexuality as a whole, independent of orientation. This shameless discreditation is a common obstacle for LGBT people in our community.

 

 “At church [after coming out], I felt horrible,” a male junior noted. “I felt like an abomination. I felt like a lie … I could read them — everything about them — from their body language, to their expressionistic eyes, to the way they stopped smiling at me … I was so hurt, so broken, so lost. I did have one thing to lean on, though: my friends. This was when true friendship was displayed, because, as I walked down those hallways, when I found the energy to smile, they glanced away. Over a short amount of time, every single friend I had, who all happened to be members of the church, let me fall.” The story this student shared with me is hardly uncommon. Generally speaking, the supposed “options” presented to our LGBT classmates are either to come out, or to live a lie — and if you do come out, live your truth alone. On the outset, this seems an issue of difference in sexuality — but at its core, the problem is much more nuanced. There is a definite absence of reverence towards the rising LGBT culture. In the case of the Church of Jesus Christ specifically, the unspoken disregard that it can often exhibit towards this contemporary group of individuals is ironic, considering its history of persecution during its early years. At one moment in time, this church craved the same sense of belonging in a world that refused to accept its own unique differences, yet it too often appears as though they themselves do not wish to offer that same acceptance towards others. Still, other

 

It does not come down to political stance, religious belief, or personal preference. No matter what truths you hold close to yourself, those truths are much more difficult to continue to grasp when they aren’t accepted by those around you. A striking amount of people within the halls of Skyline are lucky enough to be on the inside of some circles, yet they fear offering their peers similar opportunities. While it is true that a large number of these outsiders identify as LGBT, there is a greater amount of people with other, similar differences that also feel they don’t and can’t belong as themselves. These pariahs are tossed aside under the label of iniquitous, sinful, or even criminal. The greater transgression is their unabashed exclusion. Before we attempt to condemn others for their offenses, perhaps we may begin by regulating ourselves first. Perhaps, we can lead ourselves towards a more inclusive future.

 

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Hidden and Hurting