Embracing the ‘L’ word

Star Diavolikis, Staff Reporter

Grace Hendricks, a junior LGBTQ student double majoring in personal financial planning and in Japanese language, refuses to let anything stand in her way.

Hendricks realized she identified as a lesbian around middle school, but she never faced bullying over it due to being homeschooled. 

As part of being homeschooled, she participated in learning co-ops a few times a week. 

Dating in general was discouraged, so she faced no explicit discrimination due to her sexuality.

“That was never something anybody talked about, because it was very Christian based,” Hendricks said. “I never felt particularly singled out in that way.”

Hendricks said these co-ops were community-run learning sessions happening a few times a week. 

Parents of children all worked together to teach classes ranging from art to biology. These classes were short and hosted by parents, so there was little to no risk of bullying taking place.

Growing up, Hendricks never came out to her family as lesbian. As of now, she still has not.

“I’m not expecting good things, and that’s why I’m holding off on it,” Hendricks said. “It’s like, if I get into a serious relationship then I’ll probably say something. I think they know. I’ve gotten some things, like [I’ve been] side-eyed … I love them anyway, it is what it is.”

An influence on her decision has been seeing her family’s reaction to her aunt coming out as lesbian.

“I have two aunts that got married, and the way they were treated by the rest of my family was some good and some bad,” Hendricks said. “It’s a weird experience when someone else you know is out of the closet and other people are reacting to that, and you’re like, ‘This is how they’re going to react to me in the future.’ It impacted me a lot though, and it’s partially why I haven’t said anything to date. Just the idea that I might be cut off too is a lot to take in at like, age 11.”

From an early age, she felt the need to stay quiet regarding her sexuality.

“From a young age, I was going to church all the time. As soon as I sort of had a feeling that something was up… I was like 10 years old, and I was just like, ‘This isn’t going to go well,’” Hendricks said. “And then that stress sort of just stuck with me the rest of my life.”

Hendricks has, however, attended a few pride parades. At these parades, there are usually protesters lining the sides. 

These are the only negative experiences Hendricks has had regarding her sexuality.

“Some people will provoke them and make things worse, but usually people just ignore it,” Hendricks said. “They know they’re in the minority, so they’re not going to do anything.”

While at these parades, Hendricks said some of the worst experiences have been from those there in support of the parade.

“We get like the weird people who will come in full BDSM gear, and like, weird stuff. Like the kink flags and stuff, it makes everyone uncomfortable,” Hendricks said. “It’s sort of like a family friendly event, and people do bring their kids, and then there’s so many people that make it weird. I don’t like the way that things are going… I don’t really go to them anymore because it’s bad vibes.”

A common issue the LGBTQ community faces is the sexualization of their identities, which Hendricks said she has faced a few times.

Hendricks said many dating apps are flooded with man-and-woman couples trying to find a third person for their relationship or sexual activities under the “women seeking women” section.

Another common issue with these sections are men putting she/her pronouns for their information to try “pulling,” or getting a date with, a lesbian.

“[There are] dudes who will be like, ‘Oh, I use she/her pronouns, haha is that good enough for you to date me now?’” Hendricks said. “It’s like, their tactics are evolving, and all of it just makes me uncomfortable.”

Hendricks has advice for young people who may be trying to figure out who they are.

“Good luck out there kids, it’s not a huge deal anymore, but be careful who you say things to,” Hendricks said. “Stay off the internet, stay in school, don’t do drugs, but seriously stay off the internet. There are a lot of weird people out there.”

Hendricks said there have been older people who pose online as somebody who can relate to a young person questioning their sexuality, which can be predatory.

“If you’re feeling rejected by your peers for things that you don’t want to voice, don’t turn to the internet for help. Talk to your friends, talk to an adult you trust, get in counseling. Just don’t go for the internet,” Hendricks said. “You get a lot of bad advice from well meaning people, and bad advice from ill-meaning people.”