The South has a knack for making you feel othered if you’re even the slightest bit different. If you’re not white, the right kind of Christian, conservative, straight, cisgender — you’ll be made a target. I learned all of this long before I reached the end of my senior year of high school, which is why I wasn’t particularly thrilled to attend my alma mater, the University of Georgia. In fact, I wasn’t thrilled at all to know that I was essentially signing a contract to stay in the South for at least four more years. I had spent all my life in Georgia and I was itching to be somewhere where the air was less thick with conservatism and a history (and current status) of intolerance.
But I’m adaptable. I quickly learned that college is a transformative process regardless of location. It’s all about finding yourself, discovering your hopes and aspirations and reaching the deeper areas of your mind. Some people come out of the experience with a degree, others with incredible stories, and others simply with a better understanding of their body’s tolerance for alcohol. But some, like me, left with a newfound understanding and sense of purpose; I matriculated as a timid, confused boy and departed as a woman standing in her truth.