If there was ever one thing that Sarah Lawrence College is, it’s LGBTQ friendly. From the moment I discovered SLC, I knew that I had found a place to be myself and explore my sexuality. I grew up in a conservative city, and in an even more conservative household. My parents told me that if I was going to move so far away from them that I would need to hold to my religious beliefs, sexual repression included. But I knew that my going to college needed to be a journey where I could fully accept who I was as a queer person. Luckily, I was able to attend SLC for my first-year under the guise of a “Light for Christ,” a term my Mom and Dad used.
If New York wasn’t enough of an open-minded place, Sarah Lawrence was like nothing I had ever seen. There was no need to hide any longer. Students walked comfortably across campus, rocking their neon-colored hair and ripped fishnets. Before moving to New York, I had never even seen an open homosexual. Conversely, at SLC, no one even batted an eye at the idea of queerness. It was everywhere, and it was normal. Where the rest of the world was still struggling to understand gay marriage, Sarah Lawrence was breaking down concepts of gender and sexuality with a confident and colorful smile on its face. From that initial encounter, I knew this is where I would find my home.
Incidentally, by the end of the summer before my sophomore year, it really did become my home. My parents found out about my sexuality and kicked me out. They told me that the “dark path” I was on was not sustainable. I had gone from the support and care of a stable family to being completely on my own. The next month was rough, but through the chaos of this displacement, I had one clear goal in my mind: Come back to Sarah Lawrence. Nothing else mattered to me than to be back at the place where I had grown so much. I knew that the people and the support that I needed was at the school that had taught me to be happy with myself. Although I came back to SLC with a much heavier heart and a harder path to walk, I was welcomed with open arms. There were people expressing a type of love, caring, and acceptance that I had never felt before.
Then another obstacle presented itself. At the end of my sophomore year, I was unable to pay my tuition bill. I felt scared, and had to humble myself to ask for help. What I didn’t know was that my SLC family was willing to help me in every way they could. My GoFundMe goal was fulfilled in three days. Moreover, during that time, people expressed an outpouring of love that has changed my life forever.
Since then, I have grown so much stronger and more confident with who I am and who I was meant to be. I discovered drag, which has given me a mode of expression that I never knew I needed. I found my identity as Molly Poppins and now I look at drag as a piece of my heart. I would have never learned half the gay culture I know now without SLC’s influence. While I still have so much to learn about myself, I’m excited to use the tools that Sarah Lawrence has equipped me with. Not just the tools of academia, but also the tools of self-confidence and steadfastness that I needed to access a deeper part of who I am. What really mattered most to me however was that Sarah Lawrence never needed to show me that it was a safe space. It just was. There has never been a moment at SLC where I’ve felt different for being gay, or that the school wasn’t providing me with a sense of security.
The queer community can be a tough bunch, but to see so many people come together to create an environment like SLC, it is inspiring. When the Princeton Review ranked us #1 for being LGBTQ-friendly, it felt like a puzzle piece fitting perfectly into place. It reaffirmed what I already knew, that SLC will, and always will be, the place where I came into my own, and found the community that has become my family.
-Thomas Speta '17