Insert words like “male,” “Californian,” “student,” “brother,” and “friend” to describe my identity and you’d be off to a pretty good start. And although I’ll be the first to say that my identity isn’t defined by my sexuality, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that being gay has very much affected my world view and been a quality of mine that I often contemplate.
Arriving to GW with a fresh start in the nation’s capital, I found myself amongst people who identify themselves racially, ethnically, religiously, and sexually across all parts of the spectrum. I’ve learned from those whom I’ve lived with, had class with, and worked with that identity is most fully realized when it comes from within, not pressed on from the outside. Yet, remaining conscious of this concept isn’t always easy. Many people try to tell me that because I am X I should act Y – when you hear things enough, you start to believe that maybe they’re right. Ignoring what others might tell me and listening to myself has been very liberating as well as a very positive step towards embracing who I am.
I’ve been shaped by my education, my family, and my friends scattered across the globe. The years I’ve been at GW so far have been a story of living out all aspects of my identity, and this semester in Rio de Janeiro will be a new test of embodying that identity in a place where I don’t have the comfort of familiar faces or a familiar culture. Ultimately, my greatest personal goal for this semester – aside from hiking every mountain in the city and perfecting my beach volleyball game – is to reach a point where I don’t need others to validate the perception I have of myself and to have my identity be entirely mine.
“Our identities are as fluid as our personal experiences are diverse.”
― Raquel Cepeda