Today is January 18th, 2014, last year, on this day, I was sexually assaulted in my former school’s bathroom.
This past year has been everything from a blessing to a curse. I didn’t ask for what happened to happen but it did and I believe that everything happens for a reason, whether it be to teach us a lesson, to help us understand something better, or just simply because it is/isn’t meant to happen because we are supposed to be on another path in our life. For me, I believe that being assaulted was to help me better understand something, what’s that something? After the attack I had a better understanding of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) bullying in America’s schools. I no longer just read other people’s stories and advocated for them, I now had a personal reason. Fighting for safer and more inclusive schools for all students regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression was now my ultimate goal and I had a fire to keep me going.
The assault I gave me a fire, a passion, to fight until schools were safe for all students. I have been blessed with an amazing support group, including amazing family members and friends. Alongside an amazing community members I have also shared my story through the Advocate, The New York Times, and many other amazing newspaper/news outlets. These outlets have given me many more reasons to share my story, from other people’s stories to supporting/comforting messages I have been given more strength to continue my work as a LGBTQ activist.
This past year has proven to be a very difficult and jarring year, however, it has prepared me for the year ahead. This year I will be going away to college and with that comes fear. I understand that college is a fun and exciting time but all I can think about at this point is 1) what type of roommate will I get 2) how will I deal with the bathroom situation. I worry about being attacked again and the fear is very real. Also, this year I will be traveling more, I have visited some airports at night and the bathrooms are desolate. I have a constant fear of this happening again and even in a public place like an airport thoughts still race through my mind. What are my exits points? Do I have something on me that can I can use to help protect myself? If I had to scream would someone hear me? I have been given a fear which is a difficult one to live with but over this past year, through my amazing support group and many other sources I have gotten better and continue to do so.
I realize that I have been given a blessing and a horrid curse at the same time. I have been blessed because I have been given a passion and something to fight for, but I have been cursed because this is not something I should be fighting for.
Organizations like The Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network have acted as a conduit to help me share and spread my story. I hope to spread my story even farther this year. Through advocating for safer schools, I believe that one day we all will be able to walk through the school gates and receive the same treatment and care as our peers.
I continue to fight, I continue to learn, I continue to live, and I urge anyone who has experienced bullying or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression to speak up and walk with me down this path towards equality and freedom to be who we are! Don’t give up and always know that no matter what, you have a voice and you can utilize that through many tools and resources.
We’re so honored to know Andrew and to count him as a friend and fellow activist.
Thank you for sharing yourself with us, and the world, Andrew. You’re making a huge difference!