I spoke with one of professors last week about what my options would be, for researching religion and spirituality in gay and lesbian clients when it comes time to write my master’s thesis next year. He began by asking me, in all seriousness, “do you know where you are?” And I nodded. “Are you coming from somewhere that’s really different from here?” I shook my head no. He paused, as if to consider the weight of this, and then leaned back: “Alright then, what exactly are you asking me here?”

And while I never came out and said it, being the life long therapist that he is, it didn’t take him long to figure out that we weren’t talking about research. Eventually, the conversation wound around to the questions I had really come to ask… can I stay here? Is there room for me? And if I did, what would it look like? His initial reaction seemed to be that the cost would be too high. That it would not be worth it. That I should probably cut my losses before the damage is too irrevocable. But then somewhere in the conversation, he saw through my tears just long enough to catch a glimpse of something I have only been noticing recently myself: that I am stronger than I seem. That I may accept things with tears, but I don’t accept them laying down. And so he began to suggest that perhaps I might stay after all, assuming a few requirements were met. He laid them out for me; my survival kit, as he saw it… That I would have support outside of school, support within it, and regular visits to a really good therapist. I nodded, proud of the progress I have made these past two months… these first three requirements are already met. He continued with another… that I eventually, when I feel comfortable, work towards whatever level of honesty and authenticity that I can reach in my classes and conversations with fellow students. I nodded. “I am working on this,” I told him. “I’m trying.” And I am; I am almost certain that my silent days are nearly over. Finally, he told me the last requirement… that I should stay only if I walked around campus like I would never let them make me believe I was a second class citizen. Like I had just as much of a right to be here as everybody else. “Stay,” he told me, “but stay only if you hold your head up high.”

And so today, that is exactly what I am doing… I am walking around campus, with my head head high.