In celebration of LGBT Pride Month, student, veteran, and guest blogger Grambi Dora shares his experiences identifying with the disability and LGBT communities during transition into postsecondary education.
One of my youngest memories springs back to when I was dressed in a Batman costume for Halloween. I was in preschool at the time, and was aware that I did not feel my inner self matched with my external physical appearance.
This battle with wanting to freely express my gender identity continued to fight within me, until one night on tower guard. I was deployed to Camp Taji, Iraq, from October 2006 to December 2007. Amidst the deadly ruckus of constant explosions sounding off like an annoying rerun of a Hollywood war movie, I found it necessary to disclose myself to a battle buddy.
I don’t know how many times I laced my fingers around the juggler of my M-16 rifle. I would point the weapon at my temple, bury my ashamed face in the sand, and pray that the salt water streaming from my crusty eyelids would wash away the pain.
I had too much at stake to give up; my battle buddies needed me to do my part of the mission. I knew I would be letting them down if I quit. So I decided to stick around and gut things out.
It is with working through my layers of trauma, that I have encompassed an unconditional appreciation for life itself. I see my abusive childhood background and years in the military and deployment overseas as opportunities for spiritual awakening and personal growth.
Early June, 2009 I handed back my Pinocchio nosed rifles and a turtle green hard shell that supposedly protected my brain to the Department of Defense. After my discharge from the military I continued taking college classes online, and ventured down to get some southern hospitality in Bloomington, Indiana. It was in the summer of 2010 when I first reached out to Indiana University’s Veteran’s Support Services. I was warmly welcomed and given an assortment of helpful resources that made my adjustment to becoming a full time college student more enjoyable.
It was also the Veteran’s Support Services that put me in touch with Disability Services for Students office. The connection between these two offices made being a student much more accommodating for me.
The thoughts that sprout in my mind, my uplifting personal mantra, and emotions, bring me to light. The light shows that I can examine myself in honesty, and not hide beneath the deadliness of fighting battles in ongoing wars. Instead, I open myself by shining my soul in truth.
I am a survivor of post-traumatic stress that identifies as transgender, and by writing this I am taking a stand for empowering awareness of the disability and LGBT community. By practicing mindfulness we open the channels of rivers and pave new roads for generations to come.
Grambi was fortunate to have a disability services office with resources to aid his transition into higher education. For students or potential students with disabilities who may not have such access, NCWD/Youth has resources to help. If you’re a student or youth service professional, take a look at some of these materials.
- Guideposts for Success for Youth with Mental Health Needs
- Finding an LGBT-Friendly Campus: A Guide for LGBT Students Pursuing Higher Education – GLSEN
- Teaching Respect Finds Having an LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum Related to Improved School Climate for LGBT Youth – GLSEN
- Access and Equity for all Students: Meeting the Needs of LGBT Students – California Postsecondary Education Commission
- Easing the Transition from Combat to Classroom: Preserving America’s Investment in Higher Education for Military Veterans Through Institutional Assessment – Center for American Progress
By Grambi Dora, Student, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)