I grew up in a small town where we didn’t talk about gender and orientation. Everyone around me seemed like they fit the expectations of being a man and being a woman.
Sophomore year of high school I met Sarah in my European History Class. I got to know her spending the semester sitting next to her. She told me about rumors that had spread about her being a lesbian. Her friends stopped including her because of the rumors. The following year Sarah committed suicide.
My band teacher sat us down and told us what happened. There were counselors all around us and the kids from choir came in to sing a song mourning the loss. I went to the memorial service the following week. It seemed almost normal that no one asked why Sarah did this, at least not openly, at least not with me. It wasn’t until much later that I began to piece things together and find my own answers.
In college I met friends who do not neatly fit the world's expectations of masculinity and femininity. I was curious and had many questions, but lacked the tools necessary to ask them. One of my friends suggested I take a course on gender at University of Miami. I felt the class often reinforced the masculine-feminine dichotomy, until YES Institute came to guest lecture.
It was the first time, finally, I began to understand, or at least appreciate, the complexities and the impact of gender and orientation. I saw that no one fits neatly into the masculine or feminine box because gender expression is a continuum, not binary. No one is completely feminine or masculine. We all express ourselves as a unique mix of the two. This sense of understanding left me wanting more.
That led to me becoming an intern at YES Institute. It was only then that I began gaining tools needed to support my friends and educate others. Not only that, but YES Institute helped me with the relationships in my personal life. After taking Communication Solutions™my relationships started improving, especially with my mom. This internship has truly been an incredible experience.