By Najya Beatty-McLean, The Whetstone
Raiisha Jefferson is not interested in identifying herself as belonging to any group, including gender, sexual preference or race.
“Sexuality does not make the person,” she said. “Their sexual preferences about who they may or may not like does not define them as a whole. Labels such as ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ doesn’t define their successes in life, and I believe that the community is trying to make people more aware that they are no different than the ‘average’ or ‘normal’ person.”
Pride has become a powerful word in the LGBTQ community. Every event, every gathering, every meeting, every encounter seems to revolve around pride.
“To me, the message is respect,” said freshman Tatiana Wright, who identifies herself as bisexual. “I want to be respected above anything and everything. Even though I’m into both males and females, I’m geared more toward the females. So, what people not in the community do not understand is, we just want the same respect we give others.”
Some self-identified heterosexuals agreed that pride and respect are important.
“There is no reason for anyone to feel like they are any less of a person because of their sexual orientation,” said junior Ahmad Crews. “The message is pride.”
Jordan Vossberg, a freshman who identifies herself as “asexual” – a person who says he or she has no sexual feelings or desires – “It’s about acceptance. Not being accepted for what you choose to do with your life, but being accepted for how you choose to live that life.”
In August, Dover hosted its first Gay Pride Festival, near the Old State House. That was a surprise to many students.
“I live right in Dover and had no idea of a gay pride festival,” said sophomore Briana Rogers, who identifies herself as homosexual. “It makes me happy knowing that even though Dover is an old historic city, the people still took time out of their lives to recognize the homosexuals living in this town.”
Brandon Morgan, a freshman who identifies himself as gay, said he was happy to hear about it.
“That is really amazing to see that Dover has taken part in the acceptance of homosexuals,” he said. “I just wish someone would have told me, I would’ve loved to dress in drag!”
Travis Barcliff, a junior who identifies himself as gay, said that being welcomed by those who aren’t in the community, without judgment, is part of the LGBTQ message.
“At first, I always worried about what people would say about me and how they would react to my lifestyle,” he said. “Now, what they think is just not that important. But I don’t want to be judged based on my sexuality anymore. I want to be able to walk in a church and feel a warm welcome with love. Not judgment.”
Amber Johnson, a junior who identifies herself as lesbian, said she and the organization want equality.
“What does it mean to be human if you have others constantly telling you how to be human the right way?” she said. “We are all equal human beings, created the exact same way. Maybe raised a little different, but at the end of the day we are all humans who breathe the same air. Judging others for who and what they like won’t make anyone more human.”
Betty Lee, a junior who identifies herself as straight, is the secretary of P.E.A.S. (Prideful Education and Awareness of Sexuality) at Wesley College.
“It shouldn’t matter who you love or what your religion is, as humans we all need to support each other,” she said. “The suicide rate for LGBTQ members is higher. We need to start supporting them and stop judging others.”