I began taking Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies courses my sophomore year at NIU with LGBT Studies. The original idea behind taking the course was to complete a general education requirement. However, I got more out of the class than just an easy A. Over the last three years, my experiences in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies classrooms have been some of my favorite moments in college.
In these courses, students learn how women and LGBTQ+ individuals are treated in different cultures. Women and gender studies explore women’s contributions throughout history and all gender-related issues. LGBT studies explores the complex issues of identities, along with contributions from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The knowledge I have accumulated has changed the way I discuss these topics in an everyday setting. Before I wasn’t comfortable expressing my interests in these topics, but at the beginning of my second year of college I was feeling more confident in my self-expression. I was cautious at first when enrolling for these types of courses because I knew no one at home would understand why I decided to take them. I was bullied and teased growing up because of the way I dressed at school, and I was treated no differently at home by my parents and sister. Talking about women and gender studies or anything LGBTQ+ related at home is hard for me based on how I have been treated all my life.
The most important thing to understand is that these courses are a safe place for students to express themselves and learn. If I could put into words what being in these classrooms is really like I would, but there are no words to describe how it feels. You’re in a classroom filled with people who aren’t that different from you and understand what you have gone through in life to get where you are today. It’s heartwarming.
However, these courses talk about things that are hard to hear, like violence against women or LGBTQ+ individuals around the world.
There were times when I would leave class either angry or sad because it hurt to see what was really happening in the world and there’s nothing being done about it.
In these courses I never have to feel afraid to be my true self and for the majority of the students, this is their first time feeling this way in a classroom setting. I strongly encourage every student on campus to take at least one Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies course while in at NIU.