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Review for Campus Pride, Charlotte, NC, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

How Campus Pride Gave Me My Life Back

As a student-athlete from a very young age, I was constantly bullied for being different. I was picked on for not looking feminine enough, having a deep voice, and not acting the same way as other girls, among other things. Until I was 21 years old, I was a closeted lesbian, and had extreme difficulty coming to terms with that part of my identity. I got used to brushing it off when I was bullied, and denied that it even bothered me. It wasn’t until I had qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials and accepted a scholarship to my dream school for swimming that I really began to feel the weight of that on me. I had reached my highest goals and accomplished things that no one ever expected me to do, but I was unable to excel and make the most of those accomplishments.

Being gay clashed with what I wanted. It posed a threat to my goals, dreams, and relationships. I saw the way that gay athletes and students were treated by some of the people I cared about most in the world, knowing that would be the way they treated me if they knew I was struggling with my identity. Because of this, I battled depression and struggled with school and swimming until I had reached an all-time low. I left my dream school, unable to finish swimming with the team I had wanted to be on since I was just 8 years old. I thought my swimming career and my life as I knew it were over. But I was wrong.

At 21, I came out as an openly gay swimmer after transferring to the University of Arizona. At first I was unsure about how my life was going to change and the negative consequences I might have to face. Soon after, Campus Pride was one of a few organizations that reached out to me. The love, acceptance, and sense of family they shared with me were game changers. After years of feeling hopeless, angry, and frustrated with myself for being different, I began to see that my differences were important.

What I find unique about Campus Pride was the influence they have in so many different areas. Every summer, they have Camp Pride, where LGBTQ students and straight allies from around the U.S. travel to talk about social justice issues and plan to take action on campus. They have tools for assessing campus sports teams and identifying safe places for LGBTQ athletes. They also work to identify LGBTQ friendly colleges and university campuses across the U.S., giving high school students a way to find a campus with safe spaces.

Campus Pride has inspired me in a million and one ways, but mostly they’ve inspired me to do everything in my power to make sure other LGBT athletes don’t feel ashamed of themselves and live with the bad experiences that I had. Campus Pride made me realize that I didn’t deserve the way that I was treated because of my differences, and that I can do good things for others by drawing on my experience.

I can’t stress enough how big of a role Campus Pride has played in my journey. I’m grateful to them for changing the lives of young LGBTQ students who suffer from depression and struggle with bullying the way I did. I give to Campus Pride because I want to give back to an organization that helped give me my life and my self-confidence back. By giving to Campus Pride, we can make sure they’re able to change the lives of LGBTQ youth who might otherwise feel lost.

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Role:  General Member of the Public