Welcome to the first installment of The Closet! A bit late, I know, but I only received these answers just recently. The most important thing is that the voices of LGBTQ+ individuals are being told.
If this is your first time hearing about Spectrum of Aloha High School, it’s a project of The Closet that seeks to empower LGBTQ+ youth by featuring photos and interviews of LGBTQ+ and ally students, teachers, and community members.
This week, we introduce Benjamin Becerra, a current senior at Pacific University. He’s currently an intern at PFLAG, the nation’s largest family and ally organization, working hard to support LGBTQ+ youth.
In an email he sent me, he writes:
“I… want to extend the offer to use me as a personal resource. Though I am by no means an expert, I did grow up in the Washington County area as an out queer kid, and came out as trans over two years ago, while in college — so I have some personal experience that I’m very open about as well as knowledge of and connection to resources that may be helpful to you. If I can’t help, I’ll find somebody or something that can. So if you want to hit me up with any questions you have about anything (choosing a college, medically transitioning, life) or if you just want to meet up and chat over coffee and have a new queer/trans friend, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Again, with the important distinction that I’m not a professional, but will do my absolute best to help direct you towards the kind of support you may need).”
There are people who care about and love you, so don’t be afraid to reach out and get help if you need. Things will get better with time, but there are also tools available for you right now to help.
Q: What do you identify as?
A: I identify as a queer trans man. I rarely identify myself as just a man, because being transgender influences my perception and life experiences, and I find that to be really important and valuable.
Q: Are you “out”?
A: At this point, I am out to everyone in my life. I started transitioning while I was in college, so all of the students and faculty [are aware]. I’m pretty open about my experiences with everyone. For a lot of people, I’m the first out trans person that they have met. Everyone in my family, even extended, knows that I’m trans now and use the correct name for me.
Q: Who did you first come out to?
A: I first came out as transgender to one of my high school teachers that I knew I was a part of and accepting of the LGBTQ community, and he helped me a lot by offering advice and support. I think what was most important about that experience was just being offered the space to tell him how I felt without judgment and to let me process my own feelings out loud with someone else.
Q: How did your perspective on life change when you realized you weren’t straight and/or cis?
A: My perspectives have changed a lot because of my identities, but most of them weren’t quick or automatic changes. I felt that it was really important to educate myself on issues queer communities face and to also learn about gender and sexuality from a more academic approach. I think it’s a lot easier for me to empathize with other people’s struggles, and I am much more dedicated to working for social justice for all people because of my experiences and education.
I felt that it was really important to educate myself on issues queer communities face and to also learn about gender and sexuality from a more academic approach.
Q: In your opinion, is the Pacific Northwest accepting of the LGBTQ+ community?
A: I would say the Pacific Northwest is a bit too large of an area to generalize, even [though] Oregon is very diverse in attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. I think the Portland-metro area is mostly accepting, though. There are a lot of organizations in the Portland area [that’re] doing great work for the queer community, but they’re mostly within the city — I think it would make a big difference if there were more organizations outside of Portland so that youth especially can access them. I love the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community in Portland but so many of the events are 21+ which make it impossible for so many people to join.
Q: If you could say one thing to the bullies in your life, what would it be?
A: To bullies in general, I would want them to know that they are missing out on knowing some of the best people this world has to offer by judging and hurting them. I want them to know how easy it is to spread love and how good it feels to have that love returned from other people. I want them to know how much better everyone’s lives would be if we were all kind to others.
I want [bullies] to know how much better everyone’s lives would be if we were all kind to others.
Q: If you could offer any advice to young LGBTQ+ kids, young kids questioning their identity, or LGBTQ+ kids in bad home situations, what would it be?
A: I am personally not a huge fan of the It Gets Better project — though it is absolutely true that so many of these things get easier and better with time, it doesn’t help with the current reality. What I would want to say is that there are so many resources out there for you, in person or online, that can help you deal with difficult situations and give you skills to cope with them as well. There are people who care about and love you, so don’t be afraid to reach out and get help if you need. Things will get better with time, but there are also tools available for you right now to help.
Note: Answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.