When I decided to go back to community college in the Fall of 2020 (at the age of 39), I knew my experience would be different than when I began my community college journey at 17 years old. While I had ideas about who I was at 17, I wasn't a fully formed adult. When I think of who I am now, my feet are firmly planted in the ground, my head is held high, and my pride is unwavering.
I knew from an early age that I was "different" than my peers. I knew I liked EVERYONE, regardless of their gender identity or presentation. I didn't have the language to articulate this at all, but I knew in my heart who I was. My friends at school would talk about their crushes and I knew enough to know not to speak about who I really liked. I didn't want to get teased, made fun of, or jumped. So I stayed silent. I stayed silent throughout middle school, high school, and even the beginning of college. I only spoke my truth to one or two people because I was still afraid, and I let this fear drive me for so long.
When I finally came out as queer at the age of 30 (late by some people's standards), there was no going back. I was one hundred percent ready for the life I always imagined. It didn't take too long after I came out to find my partner. The person I would marry and create a wonderful life together. It took me until age 40 to embrace my gender identity and come out as a non-binary femme (they/she). I'm profoundly grateful for all the knowledge I've acquired and equally grateful for representation I have been able to see. I've expanded myself, my life, and my experience in ways I'd never imagined.
When I told my partner I wanted to go back to school during the pandemic, they encouraged me to go for it. So that's what I did. I enrolled at Pasadena City College (PCC) because I had heard great things about the school. PCC is also Octavia Butler's alma matter, which is amazing! For the majority of my time at PCC I have only taken online courses due to COVID-19 and me being immunocompromised. I've proudly displayed my (they/she) pronouns during our class zoom meetings and have shared about my experience as a non-binary person. I've advocated for myself and my community in many ways. From little things like asking my professors not to gender assignment details (which is a weird thing to do anyway), and speaking about LGBTQ+ history. It's been an absolute honor to use my voice in this way. In Fall 2022, I stepped onto campus for my first in person class and I was elated.
My first day on campus I wore my 'Femmes Can Be Thems' t-shirt with purpose and pride. I loved clocking other queer people when they saw my t-shirt and their faces lit up. Being able to share that I am a non-binary femme with my classmates feels incredible. As a self-identified elder, I love being representation for these young queer kids, who are still figuring things out and may not feel comfortable with themselves yet. I want them to know I'm here as my true self, so you can be too!
It means the world to me that I was chosen as a Point Foundation community college scholar and Student Ambassador. It feels like the most natural progression for me as a student who is out and proud on my campus. I cannot wait for 'Out in Higher Ed' week so I can share with my classmates how Point Foundation has honored me not only as a student, but as a queer and trans person. If I can in return, help one person feel more comfortable living their truth, then I'll consider my life fulfilled.