My previous post, which you can read here, had me talking about a place of higher learning not too far from my old neck of the (literal) woods establishing a LGBT resource and support center. After I added it to this blog, I couldn’t help but think about it further…
First off, I can’t say enough how great it is for the University of Wisconsin—Marinette to establish a LGBT center. I’m happy, of course, that it’s happening in the area where I spent the later years of my adolescence. More than that, though, I’m happy for those in Marinette and vicinity who identify as part of the LGBT spectrum or are LGBT allies, for they finally — finally! — have somewhere where they can find resources; obtain information on healthcare, transitioning, support, etc.; or just find a safe, welcoming place where they will not be judged for who they identify as or who they may be attracted to.
In an area such as Marinette that’s considered geographically and culturally secluded, having a LGBT center is rather significant. Oh, sure, you may be thinking that we’re now more technologically savvy, and that the internet has made the sum of all LGBT knowledge ubiquitous. Well, just because it’s the 21st century doesn’t always mean we have the world at our fingertips. Consider these bullet points:
- Not all of northern Wisconsin has the best internet or cell phone coverage. One of my uncles, for example, lives in a secluded area far from a cell phone tower (no, he’s not a wingnut) and needs landline connections (and the patience of Job) for the internet. This is the textbook definition of seclusion (physical and technological), and while it may be peaceful and soothing to folks like my uncle, it’s the pits for a LGBT person trying to find like-minded persons.
- Then there’s the sad reality that not every LGBT kid lives in a welcoming environment. Any story of a kid kicked out of the house by an ignorant parent for identifying as gay or trans and resorting to crashing in a shelter or, Heaven forbid, living out on the street or similar unsafe situation is heartbreaking; it’s where just trying to survive outweighs tapping a phone or clicking a mouse.
- And, of course, not even the best of modern technology can beat just plain ol’ face-to-face contact. Since the dawn of time (or at least the multi-camera sitcom), there have been countless instances where people create a certain spark (not just that kind) when meeting in the flesh. So, yeah, while having a conversation or building a connection with a LGBT person online is good, meeting them in the flesh can be a wonderful thing, and in more ways than one.
These are some of the reasons why, here in 2017, there’s still a need for a real, brick-and-mortar center, or at least something like it, for any LGBT community anywhere. I think there’s a sense of pride (LGBT pride, of course) for a LGBT center, be it at UW—Marinette or a broader community center such as Outreach here in Madison, to exist in the real world and not just the online world. And, as previously noted, it’s a safe, real-world space where people of all identities can be themselves and not be judged.
Of course, there’s also the aspect of the information source that a LGBT center can be. I am reminded of a high school classmate of mine who, and this is an honest fact, is principal of the very same high school we graduated from 3 decades ago, and had served as its English teacher for years prior to that. I can’t help but wonder how he deal with the possibility (probability?) of one of his students coming out as gay or trans? Initially, he’d probably have to go online to do some research, perhaps have some advisor from out of the area come up to provide him and his faculty guidance on how to proceed, which they could pass down to the students in some diluted form. Now, he doesn’t have to look that far; indeed, he can go a few towns over and seek the advice of the LGBT Center @ UW—Marinette. It’s an immediate situation he would have to deal with, and that short distance to understanding and guidance can mean so much.
I also couldn’t help but wonder… what if that student who decided to have come out could have been… me all those years ago? As I had underscored in my previous post, the LGBT Center @ UW—Marinette is the very first resource center of its kind in the immediate Marinette area. Which got me to thinking: If this was still the mid-1980s, when I was in my teens and into my relatively early years as a crossdresser… and if I were a little more sure of my identity as a crossdresser and/or perhaps something other than a straight cis male… and if such a place as the LGBT Center @ UW—Marinette had existed back then… and if I were to learn about its existence… I mean, wow! Who knows how things for me would’ve turned out then? Perhaps I would have had a little more self-confidence, then and into my adult years. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been such a wallflower and had been a little more expressive. Perhaps I would’ve learned about how to read classmates who could be accepting and understanding of me. Perhaps those who weren’t so understanding could have started to see a little bit of light (emphasis on the “perhaps” there). And perhaps my mother, who discovered my penchant for wearing her daughter’s bathing suit, would’ve had a little bit more understanding about me and my questioning my identity.
At least here in the 21st century, I do have access to resources and support not only online but in-person at a LGBT center here in Madison. And now, so does the LGBT community in Marinette, thanks to the opening of the UW campus’ center. Here’s hoping that the LGBT youth of today are able to make good use of that center. May the supportive adults do the same. And may the Marinette area as a whole benefit as a result. As a former resident of the great north woods, I know I’ll be beaming with pride.