From my summer experience in Washington D.C., I could not wait to return to Rollins and do what I could to share the wealth of knowledge I learned in just the span of three months. Upon returning, I recognized the need for education on topics surrounding the LGBT community would be crucial to their progress in society. I planned to organize the Diversity Dialogues for this semester and structured three panel discussions that focused on different issues facing the LGBT community. The first panel, “In the Wake of Prop 8,” aimed to educate the Rollins College campus, and the local community, about the current standing of “Gay Marriage” in the United States. We wanted audience members to walk away from the panel feeling enlightened and educated on the topic. While the auditorium seats approximately 85 people, this event had audience members sitting on the floor from a lack of available seating. We received a lot of positive feedback from the First Year Mentoring Program who found that this event greatly enhanced the perspectives of first year students.
The second panel focused on the transgender community, called “Who’s the T in LGBT?” It aimed to educate the audience and Central Florida community about the transgender community, as well as examining their role within the overall Equal Rights movement. This panel had not only a great turn out from Rollins, but also had many community members attending from as far away as Brevard County. The auditorium was, yet again, filled to the capacity and had audience members staying behind to engage in conversation more with the panelists. My next panel will focus on the media construction of the LGBT community, and more specifically focusing on LGBT teen suicides.
In order to see the Sandspur article about Diversity Dialogue "In the Wake of Prop Eight" Click Here.
With time flying by and only a month or so left in D.C I’m starting to realize I need to get out there more and explore the city! The only problem is that it just didn’t seem to be my week this week. I say that because I’ve spent a lot of the week suffering from hay fever and/or sickness. I’m not sure where it came from, whether it was the environment or something I ate, but I’m just waiting for it to get through my system so that I can get back into D.C!
At least my weekend was congested-free! Fiona, one of my roommates, and Chris, who lives down the hall, went to the Smithsonian National Art Gallery. We had a wonderful time wandering around the different time periods of art. Granted, I did not understand everything I saw in the Dutch 17th century galleries for example, but the experience of being there with such beautiful history made the day for me. I especially enjoyed looking around the more modern works of art, such as pieces of Cubist work by Pablo Picasso, along with works by artists such as Cezanne and Monet. At first I thought that the majority of art would be from places and by people I had never heard of, but seeing these renowned artists made my experience there a lot more worth while. In addition, I got to the photos by the Beat poet and author Allen Ginsberg. This meant the most to me because I took a Beat literature class this past spring semester, and so seeing the photos that go with the works of this man truly enthralled me.
On our way back to the metro center, we decided to take a quick look at some parts of the Smithsonian Natural History museum. I love how you do not have to pay for anything here! You can just go in and out of places to get a taste of everything. I remember at our orientation that the Dean of American University spoke to us about how to be successful in D.C, and one tip was to see and do as much as possible. With that in mind, he emphasized how it would be impossible to see and do all the Smithsonian museums in the entire two months we would be here, let alone anywhere else! Therefore we thought, while we were passing, that we would wandering around the Natural History museum for a while, and we ran across the gems and jewels section. My goodness, I’ve found the diamond for my Wedding ring! It’s the Hope Diamond, the largest natural blue diamond that’s absolutely priceless. There were also a large collection of all sorts of diamonds, rubies, crystals, gold, silver, and on top of that they presented these rocks in a variety of their natural forms. We are most certainly going to have to go back to the Natural History, even if it’s just to look at the diamonds!
The rest of the week following my active weekend became more and more congested as the week went on. First of all, might I comment on the heat here! One reason I looked forward to D.C for the summer was to get away from the Florida heat, but it seems to have followed me up here! The average temperature this week has been approximately 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit! At least it doesn’t have the same amount of humidity as Florida, but it’s tough here because not only do I have to dress semi-professionally but I also have a 10-15 minute walk from the metro to my workplace. Needless to say that I usually have to take 5-10 minutes to re-apply make-up and stop looking flustered! It gets worse when you are on the metro back from work and the air conditioning does not work! Luckily, I only have 4-5 stops, which takes about 10 minutes to travel. On one of the hottest days this week was the day that my hay fever allergies kicked in at work! It’s certainly not professional to turn up hot and flustered, but to have red and itchy eyes as well as a running nose takes unprofessionalism to an entirely different level! Luckily my work is very relaxed and understanding, so they let me go home for the afternoon to get ready got my visit to the Capitol with my class the next day.
It sounds crazy, but being an international student I never really learned about the way that the American government is structured, or much about the Declaration of Independence nor the Bill of Rights. For a lot of people, they enjoyed seeing the things about America they had always known about, but for me it was truly an educational experience. I got to learn about the three different structured of government: the judiciary, the executive, and the congressional. Since the President runs the executive branch of government, it means that he cannot just walk into the congressional sector without an invite of any sort; each branch was outlined accordingly for there to be no entity with entire control of the country. And then of course each branch has sub-sections all to contribute to the maintenance of the United States of America. Since I want to be a lawyer here in the States, it’s about time I learned this stuff!
The rest of my week went by pretty quickly, including having to stay in my dorm today because I felt too sick to go in. I’m just hoping that with rest and nourishment I will be fine for going to the zoo this weekend. It’s just hit me how little time we have here! I’ve been here for three weeks already and I feel as though my time is just slipping by. Granted, it’s difficult to do everything in D.C when you’re working from 9am till 6pm Monday through Friday, but still! A lot of people down my hall are feeling the same way, and so I think that we are all going to make more of an effort to do things at the weekends together. We have some wonderful people who live on the third floor with us! They are full of fun and make being in the big city all alone a lot easier to deal with. We are all in this situation and so we all automatically look out for one another to enhance each other’s and our own experience here. I can already count a handful of people who I know I will keep in touch with after the Washington Summer Semester program.
Unfortunately I have not been so inspired this week with plans or projects to fulfill at Rollins, but next week at work we have a call with a variety of other LGBT groups to discuss the ENDA legislation. I am really looking forward to that and see a great connection between what I do with SLAP and the work Spectrum does with how best to educate and impact our community!
As much as my first week in D.C. was packed full of excitement, it was about time I settled down into a solid work routine! This week, I learned about what it’s like to be working in an office; it is surprisingly different to the student life. Every morning I’m up at 7.30 a.m. to change, do my hair and make-up, and eat breakfast so that I get to the metro station in time. Once I ride the metro to my stop, DuPont Circle, I have a 15-minute walk to my office so that I arrive stop on 9 a.m. or earlier.
Then of course after my 9-hour day I’m traveling 45 minutes back to campus and am ready for bed again! And then of course I have to find time to study for the LSAT since I plan to take it in a few months! It’s a routine that I’m still getting used to, but I am embracing the different lifestyle. I feel so much more independent. If I don’t go to a class then it might take a point off my final grade or not even notice, but here if I don’t turn up to work, then people are going to have to pick up my load of work.
Luckily enough I’m able to combine my experiencing DC and studying for the LSAT in one, by attending the few free Kaplan LSAT study sessions offered at the DC Kaplan centre. I’m still getting my studying in, meeting new people, and exploring the city!
At work, I’m becoming more and more comfortable in the work place. As I said before, the people there are really friendly and welcoming, but now I join them of their spontaneous coffee runs and feel more part of the team. I’m currently working on reaching out to the hundreds of businesses across the country affiliated with their local LGBT Chamber of Commerce. I am responsible for Washington and California. I get such mixed reactions from people when I call; some are happy to hear from the NGLCC and cannot wait to apply for the award, and there are others that want nothing to do with us. Due to the mix in reactions I receive, my people skills are growing by the second!
With my growth in communication skills comes my gaining of what it’s like for the LGBT community. One woman called in today asking about our award and how to apply (obviously interested) and the moment I mentioned that her business had to be at least 51% LGBT owned, she became disheartened despite telling be about being gay and fully owning her company. I did not understand what the worry was; I thought she would make a great candidate for the award. It turns out that she owns a nursery, and if she came out as a 100% gay-owned company mothers would pull their children out in a second. She was 64 and had not come out to the world. That made me realize that yes the NGLCC does outstanding work with connecting to LGBT-owned companies and helping them grow, but so long as we live in culture with aspects of homophobia, the NGLCC will never be able to fulfill its mission.
On a lighter note and away from work, my Justice and Law class this week took me to the J. Edgar Hoover Building, otherwise known as the FBI Headquarters! Having grown up admiring any movie involving FBI agents, Miss Congeniality to name just one, I greatly anticipated my visit to their headquarters. Apparently they used to give tours on a daily basis, which were known as the best tours in DC. They stopped because “bad people” (as our tour guide put it) would try to get in. We had a number of security clearances to go through before being allowed in, such as a valid photo I.D, having my bag and myself scanned, and then finally giving my name to the security officer in exchange for a visitor pass. I would say it was a hassle, but honestly I just found it exciting!
Once cleared, our tour guide took us straight to their indoor shooting range. It’s somewhere that agents are able to practice shots, and become recertified as an agent once every couple of years. In fact, four agents were taking their re-certification test as we entered the auditorium separated from the range by glass. I sat in amazement as these real FBI agents shot a frequently moving target in the far distance. After this impromptu demonstration, our tour guide gave us an envelope with a book about the history of the organization, and basic information about the structure, different departments, and how they function.
I found it fascinating learning about the different departments and how each is vital to the safety of our nation. After, we went to their exhibitions of various convictions of espionage and preventions of domestic and international acts of terrorism. For example, we learnt about one man who was being paid in diamonds by the Russians to hand over America’s secrets. It was crazy!
Along with my scheduled activities outside of my internship, there are many more social and spontaneous ones. On Thursday night I enjoyed watching the final NBA basketball game 7 between the Celtics and the Lakers. Personally, I am not a huge fan of basketball, but with so much excitement amongst my hallway about the game I saw it as an opportunity to join them at the bar down the street to watch it with them. We had a fun time and I enjoyed not only getting to meet people on my hallway I’d vaguely seen around, but also watching the fans support their teams! I got to get the names of people who I’d seen wander the hallways throughout the mornings and evenings, and found a girl to go on a Mani-Pedi date with!
This week showed me what it’s like to live in the real world, and it’s certainly different experience to that of college life; it’s been quite the challenge! Now that I have my routine, I’m more settled into the city life. At the same time I’m still looking out for more opportunities of free LSAT classes, documentaries, and talks to attend. I’m also still looking out for ways to combine my experience here with what I can bring back to Rollins. I think that it’s important to confront the somewhat homophobia culture on campus, and make people realize how much it hurts to not feel comfortable about yourself being part of the LGBT community.
What a first week in the city! I’ve felt almost every emotion since being here, but mostly excitement. It’s my first time in Washington D.C. so I’ve been trying to do as much as possible in this first week, not thinking that I have another few weeks in the city. I need to take a deep breath, relax, take one step at a time, and reflect on my first week in D.C. before moving onto the next.
My mum came up with me so that she could see my room at American University, along with a few of the sights we could squeeze in before she left. We went to visit the White House (it’s a lot smaller than I was expecting!), the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. Once I got the major tourist site’s crossed off my list, it was time to say good-bye to my mum for the next two months. She got upset by it, as did I, but what helped me through it was thinking about all the experiences and opportunities ahead of me.
I headed back to campus to meet with Ashley Green, my fellow Rollins student here with me. We explored the main American University campus together and caught up on our summer experiences. While waiting for the bus to take up from our dorms to the main campus, we met a guy. We were talking about our summer internships, and I told him that I was working for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Up until that point he was very sweet, but once I told him about my internship, he suddenly became very rude and condescending. At first I wasn’t too sure what changed, until he asked me how guys responded when I told them I was a lesbian! Just for the record, I am in fact straight and had never been accused otherwise. So, being ridiculed for being a “lesbian” because I was working at the NGLCC, opened my eyes to what it must be like to be gay. His hostility towards my assumed sexuality proved to me how important it is for me to work within the LGBT community for the summer.
With orientation the next morning, Ashley, myself, and our third roommate Fiona decided on an early night after a couple goes of musical furniture. Fiona is a great person with many ambitious plans to change the world; she fits right in with Ashley and I! And now we can comfortable live together in our relatively small but cozy room. It was awesome seeing so many students from all over the country at orientation the next morning. It made me realize the prestige of the program I will be part of for the summer, and how lucky I am having this opportunity to meet all these people; the majority of them are college seniors or juniors from all over the country, with a few in Grad school. After all the mandatory orientation meetings, meeting my professor, getting an I.D. card and picking up room supplies it was time for bed and preparing for my first day at work.
Before talking about work, I would like to talk about the initial fear I experienced on the metro. I can handle riding it, in fact I enjoy it, but the steep escalators getting to the metro will take a lot of getting used to. I have to hold onto the rail all the way down otherwise I start getting vertigo! Once I get used to it I’ll be darting up and down those stairs like a real local here.
I am the Supplier Diversity and Corporate Relations intern (quite a mouth full, I know!) at the NGLCC. On a daily basis I will be answering phones, researching news articles about LGBT business, and calling businesses about being part of our annual LGBT Business of the Year award. I’m enjoying it there because the people are very friendly and willing to help me if I’m stuck. Also, I feel as though the work I am doing important work for the LGBT business world; I am working as part of the national advocacy organization for all LGBT owned companies in America, representing approximately 1.4 million LGBT businesses and entrepreneurs! The Supplier Diversity department gives companies the tools to connect with larger corporations as a diverse supplier. I will also be helping provide networking opportunities for our LGBT-owned companies through the Corporate Relations sector. From both departments I am interning with, and the organization as a whole, I’m learning a lot about businesses and the LGBT community.
Not only are there many opportunities for me at work, but outside of it too! Fiona and I attended a documentary called “The Dark Side of Chocolate” about the child labor behind the production of cocoa beans. It was an incredibly moving documentary about two men going undercover to shed light on the use of children in cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast of Africa. Traffickers find children throughout Mali, take them to a bus station to be bused to the boarder, and from there the traffickers then taxi them over to the Ivory Coast where they are delivered to farms. The frightening thing is that it was filmed only a few months ago! So many of the corporate officials of the Chocolate companies and government officials of the Ivory Coast claimed that no child labor occurs, and yet these children are walking around cocoa farms with machetes. As President of the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) at Rollins, I plan to bring this documentary to Rollins and work with Eco Rollins to present it and promote the purchasing of fair trade goods; it’s currently the only way to ensure that not only the environment is safe, but the workers are paid fairly.
A couple of nights later, Ashley and I attended a Panel discussion about Queer Media. I didn’t know what to expect exactly, but as a Critical Media and Cultural Studies major, I took an interest in exploring and finding out. The panel consisted of writers from various writing outlets, majority LGBT-specific and others more general. Each person spoke about being able to put their identity into their writing to provide a narrative to the LGBT community. For many it was difficult providing for such a diverse community, while at the same time they find that their writings help people deal with their identity and become comfortable with it. In addition, they discussed the interplay between mainstream media and queer media, more specifically about LGBT members in the mainstream and what they do. Many found that LGBT members in the mainstream had to compromise a lot of themselves and their LGBT identity to fulfill that role in mainstream media. Overall, the internet has served as a huge revelation for the LGBT community, for it provides a space for them to live and grow. Furthermore, we discussed “what is a gay issue?” There are a lot of people who believe that certain issues are “gay” and are “not gay,” for example immigration comes up as a non-gay or feminist issue, but many women and LGBT members are affected by it. After a couple of hours on this subject, the panel came to a close when Ashley and I left with talks about how we can take back what we’ve done so far this week to Rollins. We decided that we would love for SLAP and Spectrum to work closer together, so that we can organize on campus more effectively. We are still a little unsure about what we can specifically do at Rollins yet, but we have plenty of time to learn from D.C. ☺