When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free. – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Charles Evan Hughes
While this may be just an ordinary quote to some people, to others it has a deeper meaning. Members of GW Pride and other gay and lesbian students at GW believe it is their right to be different and free.
That quote is something I try to live by, said junior Matthew Patashnick, co-executive chair of GW Pride.
Patashnick is one of many homosexual students at GW who find D.C.’s environment open and accepting to gays. Being in a city has helped him to be more expressive and open with his sexuality, Patashnick said.
I feel that I’m in the middle of a gay-friendly city, Patashnick said. People here really seem to be very open and accepting.
Gay students often find it easier to come out freely when they attend a diverse university. Some gay and lesbian students said that in high school they found it more difficult to be so open with their sexuality.
Sophomore Matthew Robbins, treasurer of GW Pride, said many of his high school days were filled with the effects of people’s blatant ignorance and rudeness.
I got prank phone calls and people always defaced my locker, Robbins said. People should understand that just because I’m different, it does not give them the right to do things like that.
Both students, who said they knew they were homosexual at the ages of 12 and 13, took some time before coming out.
It’s really important to find someone you really trust and feel close with and tell that person first, Patashnick said.
An important factor in coming out for Robbins was to be true to himself first, he said.
You really have to come out to yourself before you can come out to anyone else, Robbins said. When I told my parents, they simply responded, `oh, OK, we love you anyway.’
Robbins said he has learned to put other people’s opinions of homosexuality into the right perspective.
Because I’m Jewish, Catholics think I’m going to hell, and because I’m gay they think I’m going to hell, Robbins said. So, according to them, it looks like I’m going to hell twice over.
Both GW Pride members said they learned to be comfortable with their sexuality. Patashnick said that if other people have questions or are curious about homosexuality, they should ask.
I can always tell if someone is thinking something, Patashnick said. I wish they would just ask if they have questions. I really have no problems answering them.
Common stereotypes about homosexuals characterize them as sex-obsessed and flamboyant people. Both Patashnick and Robbins said they hope people understand these stereotypes are just stereotypes and are not necessarily true.
I hate the fact that people believe all gays are flamboyant, Robbins said. I’m gay and I’m not at all flamboyant and I never have been.
There are students involved GW Pride who are neither gay nor lesbian. GW Pride members stress that it is important for all students, no matter their sexual preference, to be aware of homosexuality and to help the effort to increase awareness.
I’m in GW Pride and I’m straight, sophomore Francoise Galleto said. I feel that the gay and lesbian population are already aware. It’s important for other people to get involved in making people aware.
Another stereotype Galleto finds is that people believe that being homosexual is something a person can catch.
People seem to be afraid that if they hang out with gay people, they might become gay or be deemed gay, Galleto said. It’s very important to realize that gay people do not want to change you.
Galleto hopes that more students who are not gay become involved in GW Pride.
Patashnick and Robbins said being members of GW Pride as a part of a group of people who are similar, organized and recognized as a valid group provides tremendous support to them.
I look at GW Pride as a stepping stone in the whole process (of coming out), Robbins said. If we had something like `Twelve Steps to Coming Out,’ GW Pride would be the fourth or fifth step.
Members of GW Pride said they want people to realize that although being gay is definitely a part of someone’s identity, it is not someone’s entire identity, Patashnick said.
GW Pride is committed to getting people involved and keeping them educated about gay and lesbian issues. The organization will participate in National Coming Out Day Oct. 11.