I have definitely grown over the years. It took a long time to accept my sexuality because living in such a conservative environment, it’s been a struggle. Maybe it’s because it took me so long to come out, because I never had a strong support system until the last couple years, that I’m finally pretty okay with my sexuality. It’s hard getting over stigma and religious beliefs, but I’ve definitely grown a lot as I’ve gotten older and I give less fucks now. Being in a conservative church for so long, living in that culture of shame and guilt… it’s so hard to explain. Even though you logically know things, you still have that brainwashing left you’re trying to get over. I’m okay with myself logically, but there’s still that leftover spiritual abuse. I’m fine being open about it, but it’s hard putting it into words, all the feelings and stuff.
Living here has made me incredibly angry, the longer I live here the more it drives me to try to change things, and to try to be the best ally I can be to other people in the LGBT community and to try to educate others. I’m still a work in progress myself. Since I came to the LGBT community, there’s still a lot I need to learn. I didn’t really know anybody from the community growing up. It really wasn’t talked about, at all.
Even in high school I didn’t know anybody. I kind of was a loner anyway, so I really didn’t pay much attention to what was going on. I was struggling with my own shit. I think that is why I didn’t come out. My parents didn’t really talk about it, plus being in the church, that was all negative, homosexuality was deemed sinful. I didn’t know anybody that was part of the community, I didn’t know what to do, so I kind of buried it. I didn’t know how to talk to my parents about it, so I just buried it. My dad’s an asshole, so there’s no way. He had issues with me just being different, period. If I had came out, it would have been hell. My mom kind of suspected, but she never really said anything, she kinda wanted me to figure out on my own. Negativity-wise, all of it came from the church, but outside of that I wouldn’t hear too much. That’s another thing: it’s either gay or straight, or you’re confused. That’s probably the reason I didn’t come out either, because people kept telling me that “oh you’re confused, because of your mental illness”. No, I’ve known since I was a child that I like both boys and girls. My first crush was a female. I didn’t know what my feelings meant, I couldn’t share them.
I definitely think this area is evolving. Despite it’s very conservative climate, there seems to be a growing number of people who are thinking outside the box, people that are more aware, and especially with the younger generations, they seem to be more culturally aware too, so things are changing. There’s still a lot of hostility especially toward the LGBT community. Personally I haven’t faced a lot of it, because I’m introverted, but maybe that’s because things are changing and a lot of old people are dying. It does seem like the political climate here is swinging more moderate. People seem to be waking up to various issues, there seems to be a growing acceptance of the LGBT community. There’s still tons of discrimination, that hasn’t gone away, but it seems to be gradually getting better. Kosciusko County is one of the most conservative counties in the country. Even though it’s really conservative, it seems like the younger generations are changing things here, so I have a lot of hope for things to progress, especially for the LGBT community.
I saw the need for the Warsaw LGBT and Supporters Group, knowing a lot of LGBT people wanted so desperately to connect, so I initially started a support group. I want to connect too, and since I'm trying to figure stuff out, I want to be around other people in the community so I could grow. Initially it was that I saw the need here and the desperate need, definitely. I had a friend originally say “you should start an LGBT group, you are passionate about LGBT issues, and there’s not really anybody else doing it, so you have a passion for social justice, so maybe you should focus on this.” (I feel bad because I don’t use the entire LGBTQIA+, I think it’s easier to use LGBT, sorry for alienating the other people.) Some of the friends I had already were part of the community. Friends of friends of friends. It’s funny too, because a lot of people I know say “you need to be friends with these people!” All of my friend groups are all connected to one another. That’s how I met so many. Otherwise I wouldn't seek out. Everything kinda fell into my lap.
It seems like there’s a really awesome sense of community in Warsaw. When you're connected, you’re really connected. There’s a lot of love here. I think some of us get lost in all the negativity but once you find a connection, it's really easy to find lifelong friends. Being a small town it’s easier to find connections, despite all the negativity, there are a lot of wonderful people here. Living in a small town it’s easier to find people, especially if they’re different, like you in some way, it’s easier to build lifelong friendships too. I’ve been enriched by the friendships, I want to be a better person because of my friends. They give me hope, they give me the drive to connect with other people.
I know a lot of people not part of the majority feel “oh there’s nobody like me”, but actually there are so many other people with the same desires. I know the hopelessness, I know the feeling of loneliness, but there are such amazing people here also wanting to fight the good fight, also wanting to raise awareness and educate here. I know it’s hard going out to try to connect to people, but once you find that, it’s amazing. This is why I want to live in a big city, but at the same time I know I wouldn’t make those connection in a big city. As much as I hate it here, I know if I move away I will never have those connections again. We’re all connected in some weird little way. There are people I didn’t even know existed here, and it was like WTF? Especially our generation, we are connected. In high school there were a lot of people that I knew, and then I became close friends with them after high school. A lot of them chose to stay here. All the atheists, LGBT, progressives, they all hang out with each other and have friends with each other. Once you meet one person, you meet everybody.
I would like the group possibly to become a not-for profit and set up something in Warsaw that helps especially LGBT youth, like a community center where they can come and get resources. Also I would like the group to be more politically involved, not only as a support group, maybe some sort of activism, connected to other activist groups in the area. I have a lot of ideas I just don’t know how realistic they are. I would love to buy a building when there’s money and use it as a community space, have somewhere we can regularly meet, services, counseling, but that’s a work. I would love to have an LGBT homeless shelter, or even a commune.
29. Bisexual woman. White. Poor.