My life in diversity by Lauren Hill
Diversity is as a multifaceted term filled with color, visibility, equal rights, equal access, oppression, family, community, understanding, experiences, individuals, misrepresentation, and confusion. Which diversity are you talking about?
I came out in high school, in the early 90’s, but not really. I had my first mutual gay experience, if you will, my first tug of attraction and eager anticipation with a girl friend of mine. But, I did not know what it meant. I grew up in the South, as a Southern Baptist. I had never heard the word lesbian, did not understand what gay meant. I was confused; this is not what I thought was supposed to happen. I was supposed to like guys and dream of a marriage and kids. The feelings were supposed to be automatic; there should not be a conflict. I tried. I dated many guys and my best relationship was with the one who helped me come out. He said to me, “I think I may know what’s going on.” I was already 20 years old.
Then I moved to Portland Oregon so I could hold my girlfriend’s hand without fear of being yelled at or chased after. I was no longer diverse in relation to my community there, but I had gone so far off the spectrum from where I was from. There was no way back. I was spiritually diverse, sexually diverse, and artistically diverse. I was an activist and part of a burlesque troop. I delved into helping Trans friends transition from Male to Female, researching herbs for acne as they went through another puberty. I reclaimed the word queer as a word of power, going from a box to a more expansive label that included a larger group of individuals. I grew, I learned. I felt normal there.
Then my partner and I decided to leave the bubble and expand our lives. We moved to Hawai`i. I had always heard LGBT individuals are welcome in Hawai`i. Well, any tourists are welcome with money, and LGBT in Honolulu is not a big issue. Being gay is accepted culturally in Hawai’i, as it has always been around. However, it is not something that Hawaiians like to see flaunted in the face of others. We stopped holding hands.
I became the secretary for the LGBT student organization, PRIDE, and wrote a grant with my partner to put on an LGBT diversity seminar. This brought Japanese, Chinese, Micronesian Islanders, Hawaiians, and those of us from the mainland together to discuss diversity. It was successful.
Now we are back in the South. We are not even thinking about holding hands here. Although my partner brought up a scary reality; she said we should hold hands and if we are beaten up at least it would make the news and help create change. The South can be a difficult place to be. I decided to take on this seminar to get the word out, to create dialogue and discussion. In my mind, it is outlandish that the University does not allow domestic partner benefits, tell me why my partner of seven years does not deserve the same treatment as a coworker’s husband. Discrimination against the LGBT community is still alive and well. I just want to hold her hand.
Diversity to me means acceptance. I get tired of hearing the word, but for me and my relationship, for my partner who is Deaf, we thrive on places that promote acceptance of diversity. It makes living a little easier and a little sweeter.