I'm not really sure what to write about today, but I am bored so I reached into the "Things You Don't Know About Me" file.
I graduated high school in June of 1998 at 18 years old. I had already worked at Purdue University for a year and planned to attend in the fall. I had a friend from work named Dana. She and I dated over the summer and had a great time. We went to my first Dave Matthews Bad concert, my first fraternity party, my first a lot of things. Then came the surprise. In the middle of August she called me one night and was super excited. "Andre is coming back from Russia this weekend!" Andre, I thought, who is Andre? Her boyfriend...that's who. It came as a surprise to me. Not that I thought we would date forever, but she had certainly never mentioned a boyfriend. Well, that weekend he flew back into Indianapolis and we drove down together to pick him up. He was not the big, burly Russian I was imagining. He was tall, slim, cute, and hilarious. The three of us had a great time together.
The weekend before school rolled around and Andre's fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, was having a big back-to-school party. Dana and I showed up and I paid my $5 for my red cup. I never drank, but no one knew that, because I always had a cup that I was sipping out of...usually filled-up with water from the bathroom. We were having a great time in the upstairs bar and people were starting to trickle out when Andre said he had a surprise for us. He returned with the largest bottle of vodka I had ever seen. It was 3-4 liters and had a pump on the top to dispense shots. And so I was baptized in vodka. I had my first real drink of alcohol that Friday before I started classes. I also had my second, third, fourth, fifth...ok, you get it. We were drunk all weekend long...and I knew then that vodka was my baby.
I knew I was gay early in life. Like kindergarten early. My friend Lance and I both got sent to the principal's office frequently for showing our affection for each other. We would play house...he would be the wife, I would be the husband...and we would pick the cutest boys to be our kids. During reading time, when we sat in a circle on the floor, we would put our arms around each other. And on the playground we would hold each other's hands and steal kisses by the swingsets. Well, by the time I got to Purdue, I realized that it wasn't always that easy. I didn't know ANY gay people except the ones that were rumored in high school. I set up an ad on a personals site and got a response right away.
His name was Eric and we agreed to meet for coffee. We became great friends and soon were inseperable. He introduced me to the gay culture at Purdue. He was the president of a fraternity for gay, bisexual, and progressive men...and was heavily involved in the LesBiGay Network. In January of that next semester I rushed Delta Lambda Phi and recieved a bid to pledge. My mother had just passed away a few weeks earlier, and I threw myself into the pledging process. I was selected as the president of my pledge class and after initiation I was elected Vice President of the fraternity. I also got involved in several other groups on campus. I became the social director of OUTcome, the social branch of the LesBiGay Network. We had a lot of fun with our weekly Thursday outings. (And of course the Thursday night parties that followed.)
Through my involvement I got to meet Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard's mother. We started another, more political, group on campus called Purdue Equality Alliance and we managed to accomplish a lot. We petitioned the University to change their anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and helped institute a zero tolerance policy for discrimination. A friend and I that were working with Planned Parenthood co-founded another organization, Campus for Choice...the first pro-choice/abortion rights campus organization at Purdue. It was a lot of hard work, but I had finally found something I was good at: fighting for my own rights and things that should be changed.
Since I left Purdue, all of the organizations I was involved in have joined forces to creat the Queer Resource Center. This includes all the groups I worked to help create and foster along with new ones like Kappa Lambda Phi - a new lesbian sorority, ALLY - a campus-wide support and action group, Queer Advocacy Alliance - formerly Purdue Equality Alliance, and a Queer Student Union.
We might be stuck in the middle of a red state...but we created a safe haven for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students and residents.
I'm not entirely sure how to end this entry...no idea, really. So, I will just thank you for reading and take one more thing out of the "Things You Don't Know About Me" file.