So we’ve had people post about their experiences basically all over the country and globe. Mine really won’t be too exciting in comparison, I fear, because my story began in a little town (less than 20k people, of course) an hour north of Indianapolis. The population is 80-some percent white, with a small Latino population and well… after that you have the extreme minorities — the two Chinese families, the… four or so? black kids in my high school, so on so forth.
As luck would have it, my best friend was one of the only openly homosexual kids to grace the halls of my high school. He was ridiculed and tormented, naturally, but he is one of those people who can’t be phased. He brushed it all off and waited for his chariot to come and whisk him away to college.
I only ever even bumped into trans people twice living there — once on a chance encounter in the hospital (in which we shared an elevator and idle small talk, to the dismay of the other hospital patron in the elevator with us) and once doing service work — because of the problems with employment opportunities, lots of gender variant and gay people end up bouncing around through things like the mental health center and other not-for-profit organizations.
I went to Chicago for my first year of college and was so excited to live somewhere much less stifling, and it certainly was. The amazingly colorful experiences I had there in mere months trumped anything I’d experienced in my first 18 years of life. Not only did I have brushes with trans people, I knew them by name. I got to tell my friend Patrick (who was still a senior) that I was actually experiencing real gay culture… he had a long year ahead of him waiting for that one. The city itself was like the best gift I’d ever received! The school on the other hand… I absolutely had to transfer out. Then came the dreaded decision of IU.
I was so afraid moving to Bloomington would be like being in my hometown all over again. I had made up my mind that Indiana itself was a cultural wasteland — completely desolate and void of anything beyond the norm. And WHOA was I surprised!
Bloomington has given me so many opportunities to truly expand upon what I’ve learned and experienced thus far. The gender studies department here is phenomenal and I have garnered so much from it. It’s so funny writing this as a senior, because I feel somewhat reminiscent and simultaneously scared about where I end up next year. The fact of the matter is, though, that it is people who have lived and experienced someplace like this that need to end up in towns like where I grew up… because otherwise that bubble is going to stay exactly the same with no one in it to shake it up.