Op-Eds Opinion

For the Record: Emily Tonning urges for more LGBTQ+ advocacy among Springfield College community

Editor’s Note: This piece is the third installment of the revamped “For the Record” series, highlighting members of the LGBTQ+ community across the Springfield College campus. The intention is to amplify the voices that, more often than not, go unheard. Please be aware that this story may contain derogatory, anti-gay slurs and were written by the author as part of the piece. The Springfield Student staff condemns the use of derogatory language and we support the author’s right to candidly detail what occurred in the past to try and build a better future.

By Emily Tonning
@embugg3383 on Instagram

I didn’t know what I wanted out of life when I was 17 years old.

But when you’re 17 years old, you have to make big decisions.

Through my senior year of high school I pretended that I knew who I was. I had just discovered that a Communication Disorders major existed and realized I wanted to pursue a career in it. Other than that, I was a stranger to myself. But this piece, I was sure of it. It gave me hope that I could just pull through the last summer before I went away to college. Maybe I’d learn a thing or two about myself there.

Starting a new chapter of your life with no ties is freeing. Knowing nobody and living in a new city gave me more stability than I felt in my hometown during those challenging high school years. I had needed a change, and I found one at Springfield College. I was drawn to the people, the kindness — how I felt walking around the beautiful campus. I knew I would get a wonderful education here, and it still feels like home to me now.

I knew I wanted to get involved in as much as I could — this included leadership opportunities, clubs, anything. I didn’t know Springfield had a Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) until I went to the campus club fair my freshman year.

One of the things I did know about myself was that I was queer.

It took me all of high school to get comfortable with it, and it became something I truly cherished about my identity.

This club brought me to some of my closest friends. It has provided me with community and leadership. It does not mean that I felt wholly seen or acknowledged on campus. The club has about four members or so. The executive board alone is bigger than that.

I don’t feel an active allyship the way I wished that I did on campus.

The GSA is small, and that’s okay. Sometimes serious work can be done in small groups. But serious work can also be done in a community.

On campus I feel safe. I know nobody cares if I like women, or men, or both, or everyone. I personally have not yet had any issues, but in that space is silence. I’d love for my history to be taught. I’d love an inclusive sex-ed and I’d love more participation and active advocacy. I’ve seen positive change come about in my year and a half here and I’m grateful for that. I will only hope to keep that progress moving forward.

I don’t want people to see inclusivity efforts as an agenda or something forced onto others. With talk of pronouns or anything to do with queer culture and life in my classrooms, I see people roll their eyes and I hear them scoff. This isn’t important to them. But these reactions can’t be wished away and I don’t know what the cause is. People don’t seem to be attracted to new inclusive terms or to asking questions so that they become informed.

I don’t know how to teach that. I only know that I can be the butt of a joke.

I can be impersonated and I can be judged for my love life over the quality of my character.

I can be and I have been. I don’t know how to explain that, but like anything else, language and society both evolve. Why can’t new words be acquired? When has it ever hurt to know more than you think you might “need to” about a subject? What truly sets us apart, and what makes it funny? Laugh at somebody if they’re telling a joke (even if it’s a lame one), but never assume that, by existing, somebody is a living, walking punchline.

I’ve grown here and will continue to grow. I will continue to ask questions so that I stay informed. If I don’t fit in, I will force the mold to open. It saves to be an ally, and that’s something I tell everybody. I love this campus and I love this school. I love the education I’m receiving and I know that it’s changing me. Silence is empty and inactive, and I only hope that people will make noise and listen to the sounds of advocacy.

Photo: Emily Tonning

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