Living with roommates. Filling out forms. Finding an appropriate bathroom.
Those are among the seemingly ordinary activities that can present challenges for members of the LGBTQ community. But, Bridgewater State University and its Pride Center are here to help.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity are not choices,” said Lee Forest, the center’s director. “You discover them. You could choose to live your life authentically or not, but who you are in terms of your identities are not choices.”
The center recently hosted LGBTQ 101, during which Forest and eight students explained terminology and shared personal stories. Several professors brought classes to the event, which included an interactive activity that illustrated the struggles members of the LGBTQ community face: What gender box to check on a form? How to explain one’s identity to roommates or new friends? Should one share this information at all?
Bridgewater State strives to ease these concerns and create a welcoming, inclusive community for all students. Just ask Nicholas Williams, ’21. Nicholas is a transgender man, meaning he was assigned the sex of female at birth and identifies as a man. He has been fully living as a man for several years.
Nicholas grew up in a conservative household where, for many years, he didn’t know about being transgender. In high school, he often walked across the school to the one bathroom he could use. Things are different at BSU, and not just because there are 71 gender-inclusive, single-occupancy restrooms on campus.
“Coming to Bridgewater, where I do have the resources and support from so much of the campus, it’s really made a difference to me personally,” said Nicholas, who is from Auburn and majoring in communication studies with a concentration in public relations.
He feels like he can be himself.
Lindsey Thayer, ’22, agreed. She is asexual, meaning she feels no sexual attraction to any gender. Lindsey said she is lucky to have not experienced much prejudice. But, she sometimes thinks she is “broken.” Then, she realizes her BSU friends are there for her.
“People have accepted me with open arms,” the history major from Plymouth said. “I have great friends who help me when I fall into a pit.”
Student speakers encouraged their peers in the audience to avoid making assumptions based on how someone looks.
Lindsey said: “It’s really important to listen to what you feel because you’re the person that knows you best.” (Photos also by Brian Benson)
See below for a downloadable version of the handout from the event.