Op-Eds Opinion

For the Record: Pamela Marino on her role as LGBTQIA+ Student Representative

Editor’s Note: This piece is the fifth 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 Pamela Marino (she/her)
@pamela.artist on Instagram

One of my biggest goals is to leave behind a world that is better for the people who come after me. I aim to create change through creativity, kindness and compassion. As a student, I have been working to develop my voice as a leader, an educator, an artist and an advocate for others. This year, I was able to find a way to make my voice heard in a role that I am so proud to hold, representing a community that I love so much and think of as home. 

I was up late scrolling through Instagram one late night this past fall. Sandwiched in my seemingly endless feed, I stumbled upon a post from our Student Government Association account. This post detailed some of the roles that were opening for the 2020-21 school year, one of which was the role of LGBTQIA+ Student Representative. I immediately knew I had to put myself out for the position. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind. After a week of social media campaigning, I received an email saying that my peers had voted me into the role, and I could not have possibly felt more honored. I was ecstatic and I was ready to get to work. 

As a queer person at Springfield College, I would say I feel loved and supported by the people I have chosen to fill my life with. Through other leadership roles, I have been given a handful of opportunities to share my story and educate others, all of which have been met with a willingness to learn. While my experiences have been positive, I understand that the same cannot be said for all LGBTQIA+ members of the Springfield College community. 

The LGBTQIA+ community is home to so many individuals that come from diverse backgrounds. We all have a unique story to tell. No two queer experiences are the same. This is proven true to me time and time again through the amazing friends I have made at SC who also call the LGBTQIA+ community home. Through these friendships, I have found a safe haven. I have found a home that is not physical. 

Over the past few years, a consistent issue that I have noticed is that hate towards those who identify as LGBTQIA+ is most alive in language. This could refer to a slur thrown around casually across a dinner table, or the consistent misgendering of a trans/trans non-binary student. These moments, which may seem small, hold so much weight. I have met a lot of people who think that words should not have weight, that we should not give words the power that we do. To them, I would say; it’s not easy to be the butt of the joke over and over again. It hurts to be on the other end of hate. It’s alienating and isolating, and no person deserves to feel that way. 

Something significant I have learned in this position is that reaching out to others and forging connection has profound power. If I exclusively sit back and wait for others to come to me and ask for help, I will be waiting forever. If you want to support a friend, a neighbor, a classmate, or a student that is experiencing hardship or a challenge, sometimes you have to be the one to reach out first. Understand where they are coming from, what they are experiencing, what they need, and what you can do to help. Reach out and listen with genuine care. Always have your ears open, ready to listen, and learn. 

In this break between semesters, I have been taking time to reflect on my original goals as the LGBTQIA+ rep. My goal going into the spring semester is to have a broader outreach to my campus community at large. I want my outreach to be as broad as possible so that I know I’m supporting as many people as possible. In a COVID world where casual run-ins are few and far between, I decided to create a Google Form for people to reach out on LGBTQIA+ issues on campus. I hope that this digital space can be home to productive conversations and genuine connections. 

If I could leave you with one message, it would be to invest in respect, because respecting others will always pay you back ten times over. Put love into this world and it will be served back to you and spread love starts with self-love. Love the skin you’re in and spread that same love unconditionally to those around you. Respect all, listen, love, and commit to understanding those who are different from you. There is only something to gain from the process of understanding others.

Photo: Pamela Marino

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