More Than Just Our Labels |
The pros and cons of being defined by your sexual preferences in a community
By Asha Johnson
(EAST LANSING) – Ann Arbor and East Lansing Michigan are two cities known to be rivalries of each other in just about everything, but there is one acronym that they both have in common that joins their communities together; LGBT.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is often looked at as being unaccepted or are shunned away from others, but because East Lansing has been voted one of the most gay friendly cities in America, MSU is the campus to be on to openly express yourself and/or sexual preferences.
“Being from Ann Arbor I normally would see more gay people than straight people so it was easy to be myself,” said former MSU student Robert Stevens, 19. “I was slightly pre cautious coming to East Lansing because I was taught to be that way since I am a black man and a gay black man as well, but the community welcomed me in instantly,” he said.
Being pre cautious and aware of your surroundings when coming to unfamiliar areas is a normal thing to do and one would say they would be scared to be themselves, but being himself is what got Stevens where he is today.
“Not to sound cocky but I like to look at myself to get along with almost everyone,” Stevens said, “I generally fit in and like to make friends who accept me for who I am, because although I am not boastful about my sexuality, I don’t hide it either.”
Having friends who understand you more than you understand yourself are what most individuals need in life to be able to release stress and whatever else may bother them. Stevens has that special someone whom he confides in about everything and she’s literally closer to him than you may think.
18-year-old Amy Chatell is from Ann Arbor, Michigan and is a freshman at Michigan State University. Chatell and Stevens have become so close because they have so much in common that they were drawn to become roommates.
“People can usual tell that Robby is gay before he even opens up his mouth and what drew me to become so close with him is how he isn’t ashamed of who he is,” Chatell said, “he even walks around the dorm in his heels.”
Although Stevens isn’t ashamed about whom he is and struts around in his fabulous pumps, years ago he wasn’t as confident as he is now.
“This may sound a little backwards but I actually came out to my classmates in school before I came out to my folks back at home,” Stevens said, “for some reason I felt more comfortable with my school community than with my family.
Stevens had a rough childhood when he came out, but his “Ann Arbor Mentality” is the very thing that allowed him to reopen himself and not care about his appearance.
“I was a little bias about openly displaying who I really was to my community because of the different feelings people would have towards me, but now I don’t care and it doesn’t affect me,” Stevens said.
Because Stevens is so openly gay and stands strong about his sexual preferences, he had a lot to say about marriage laws not being passed for homosexuals.
“I often refer to myself as a “hopeless romantic” so I still have hopes and dreams that one day I’ll grow old and raise kids with my husband, but I also don’t really see the need to have laws validated by the state,” Stevens said, “I don’t need a state law to validate whether or not someone may be my husband because if the love is there, he in fact will be my husband in my heart.
Stevens does think about marriage laws and what benefits it may hold for him and the protection of his future children, but he understands there are other ways to be married.
“I am aware that other states have already passed this law but because I am already accepted in my community, I wouldn’t want to start all over unless I was already planning to move or unless my kids needed to be left in my will if I was dying,” he said.
Stevens has worked hard to stay connected to his community by working with gay activist groups so that he can help straight people to be aware of who they are and not be judgmental when becoming acquainted with the LGBT community.
“Often times straight people may say something about gays and not be aware of their words choice and how offensive it is, but the gay activist groups that I attend educate them on how to not use offensive wording and improper/uncomfortable labeling,” said Stevens.
“Being unaccepted isn’t an option and I am more than just my labels”