What Is Not On My Campus?

What Is Not On My Campus?

Because 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men is too many.
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sur·vi·vor

"A person who manages to live through a situation that could have killed them."

One in four women are survivors. One in eight men are survivors. Your classmate is a survivor. Your friend is a survivor. Your relative is a survivor. I am a survivor.

One in four women are victims of sexual assault and one in eight men suffer the same horror. So how can we change this? Not On My Campus is a student lead movement, by students for students, geared towards raising awareness about sexual assault on college campuses. But what is there to raise awareness about? We know to use the buddy system, carry pepper spray and don't follow that stranger into the alley... But when is the last time someone warned us about the person we trust, the person we care about and the person we believe would never hurt us?

Eighty-two percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows. Someone you think would never hurt you. Someone you think respects you. That is what we need to talk about. That is what we need to be aware of.

After speaking with Sydney Whigam, a Texas A&M student who helped start this movement on campus, I learned about her deep passions behind it. She was inspired to stand up and make a change when she shared her own story and there was an overwhelming response of people saying they had been through the same traumatic experience. Her goal at the beginning of this movement was just to help one person, but after two days of experiencing the amazing love and support other Texas A&M students gave her, her goal shifted to not just helping one person but to creating awareness throughout the campus that sexual assault is a problem. And even though we attend Texas A&M, a place we consider safe and friendly, there are still bad people and we all need to be aware of that.

Another issue Not On My Campus wants to emphasize is the issue of victim blaming. Why is it that when a survivor makes the courageous decision to report a sexual assault the first questions asked are, "Are you sure you really said no? Were you drinking alcohol? Are you sure he heard you say no? What were you wearing?" We need to realize that nothing the survivor did or wore gave the perpetrator the right to disrespect, belittle and violate the survivor, nothing. We need to continue this movement and acknowledge that sexual assaults are a problem. We need to stop emphasizing teaching little girls to not wear certain clothing, and to travel in pairs and start emphasizing teaching boys that no means no and every girl has a right to change her mind. No is no. Intoxication is no. Silence is no. And clothing does not determine consent.

To the survivors: Please know that you're not alone. Please know that it's OK to not be OK, but it's also OK to piece your life back together again and prosper. Both options are okay because its your life, you still have your life! This person might have tried to steal that from you, but don't let them. Please know this is NOT your fault. As much as society tries to victim blame, it is not and will never be your fault. With that said, stop blaming yourself. Nothing you did, wore or any place you went justifies what happened to you. Nothing justifies what happened to you. And finally, just remember you have support. There are people here to help you and be there for you.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted and you'd like support, please call the Sexual Assault Resource Center at 1(800) 656-HOPE

For more information on Not On My Campus and to learn what you can do to create a safer campus - like them on Facebook at "Not On My Campus TAMU"

*All statistics from https://rainn.org/statistics

Cover Image Credit: Not On My Campus

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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