Interview with an Ally
Interview conducted by Stories For Love volunteer, Lakesh Abreu.
Tell me about your family and how your were raised.
I was born and raised in sunny San Diego, California! Both of my Navy parents settled there in the late 1960s, got married and rotated going to school and working until they both completed their nursing degrees and then decided to start their family. I had a modest upbringing full of extra curricular activities, high educational expectations, and the influence of Christ was always around me. Living so close to the Mexican border, my family and I frequented Tijuana for missionary-type work, helping families build homes and providing them with food and often our slightly worn clothes, kitchen ware, appliances, etc. This foundation of giving left a lasting imprint on my outlook on life and caring character.
Describe your first memory of meeting someone who is sexually diverse.
My Mother's second husband had a gay brother. I never spent much time with him, but he is the first recollection I have of having known someone who sexually oriented as gay. I would say I was about 8 years old when this meeting occurred.
In Junior High School, however, I was a member of the Marching Band Tall Flags Squad and there was a boy who was a part of the all girls team so, naturally, people assumed his orientation. This boy was not openly gay at the time. Later, he became a very dear friend of mine, and confided in his closest friends of his sexual preference.
How has your impression of sexual diversity changed since knowing this person?
Growing up in San Diego, I was exposed to the LGBTQIA+ community often. About 40% of my childhood friends associate as sexually diverse and my young adult years were spent living in a neighborhood that borders Hillcrest, home base for the LGBTQIA+ Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for San Diego County. My closest of those childhood friends sits on the Board of the HRC for San Diego and I participate regularly in fundraisers, PRIDE parties, and various other PR events in support of the community.
As a Peace Core Volunteer (PCV), what support have you provided for volunteers who are sexually diverse?
As a PCV, and more specifically as one of the volunteers more regularly exposed to the LGBTQIA+ community, it is an expectation of myself to be vocal, present, and supportive for any fellow volunteer that associates as sexually diverse. Serving in Macedonia, a place in the world that to date is still struggling to prioritize equality in general, the sexually diverse PCVs serving along side me primarily find their support from fellow PCVs and the Peace Corps staff. They are made aware of what it means to be openly gay, or sexually diverse, in this country and they are forced to hide it from host country nationals. Some even choose to keep it a secret from their fellow PCVs. Many of them elect to create separate social media accounts where they can protect their sexually diverse identity while serving in country. This is, of course, their decision, but it pains me to know they are forced to these actions. All the while understanding that they selflessly made the choice to serve and that this unfortunate reality of service in many countries around the world simply go hand-in-hand.
If you were able to share your opinion about the LGBT+ community among PCV's, what would you want others to know based on your experience?
We are all human beings of the same universe! LOVE is my religion and I do my best to spread that love and light everywhere I go and with those that are deserving in this life! Being yourself is the first step to being present and to living life to the fullest, which I profoundly believe is the reason we were put on this Earth!