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General News

You Are Welcome Here

When I stepped onto my college campus for the first time (too many years ago to publicly admit), I felt an overwhelming sense of hope and optimism. Like many of you in the UHP, I was one of “those kids” in high school—took hard classes, served in leadership roles, cultivated a near-perfect GPA (#honorskid). So I was excited to finally be in a college setting, where the opportunities for excellence were boundless.

 

Yet underneath all of that excitement was dread. For my whole adolescent life, I’d harbored a secret, which at times felt like a frightened animal, shivering in the shadows, uncertain of when it could take its first baby steps into the light.

 

Now in college, I was on my own for the first time, able to take the reins of my education and start shaping my understanding of the world, and myself (gulp.) College would be the time when I’d have the freedom to explore (bigger gulp.) I knew my secret couldn’t stay hidden for much longer. It would soon have to come out.

 

I’d lived deep in the closet my whole adolescent life. But now I was finally thinking about taking that impossible leap into open, and the notion sent tremors through my body, like a shock of electricity – still, I knew it was something I had to do if I were to live an authentic, purposeful life.

 

Today is October 11th, National Coming Out Day, a day of celebration for the LGBTQ community. For me, coming out was a years-long process, full of uphill climbs, restful peaks, dark valleys, torrential downpours, and unexpected (but beautiful) oases—a process that, while difficult and ongoing, has become full of celebration.

 

While the phrase “coming out” refers to disclosing one’s identity, we can also think of it as owning oneself, being true to oneself, embracing who you are, and not apologizing for it. For knowing the ground on which you stand, for making the best of the opportunity you’ve been given, and for embracing the life you have.

 

Laying down your armor and letting the world truly see you can be terrifying. (I will admit, I delayed my own coming out process for as long as I could.) But in the words of Brené Brown, the author of fabulous books like Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness, “…True belonging only happens when we present our authentic selves to the world… Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” On this National Coming Out Day (and, really, on each of your days here) I encourage all of you in the UHP to own the story you bring to this university.

 

To “welcome” is to embrace—to fully integrate into a community. We at the UHP truly welcome all of you here, and we hope you extend that welcome to each other, now and into your years at GWU to come.

 

Courage,

Ben

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