When Baldwin resident Mathew Goberdhan was a freshman student at Potsdam State University of New York, he said he hid his sexuality for fear of being judged.
In 2013 he became more open about his sexuality and began dating another male student at his college. On many occasions, Goberdhan said he recalls when he would walk across his college campus, hand-in-hand with his boyfriend, and many students would stare at them and scream, “faggot,” among many other discriminatory slurs.
After experiencing bullying on his college campus, during the same year, Goberdhan also came to find out about how members of a fraternity, which he was interested in joining, had banned him because he is gay.
Throughout this month of June, which is Pride month, 27-year-old Goberdhan said he cannot help but ponder about how far he has come after facing painful moments in his life following his decision to open up about his sexuality to his family, friends and college cohort.
“My friends from high school were very supportive of me coming out to them, but it was hard coming out to some of my family and to my college peers,” Goberdhan recalled. “My mom has been supportive and accepting of me being gay since the day I came out, but I haven’t had a good relationship with my dad ever since.”
The last time Goberdhan had contact with his father was seven months ago. His parents are divorced and, in the past, he would only see his father on the weekends when his father visited.
“My dad doesn’t really ask me how I’m doing anymore and when he does visit, my dad just sits there and we barely talk,” Goberdhan said. “There’s a huge disconnect. He doesn’t understand that this is me and my sexuality is not a choice.”
Despite facing adversity among peers and losing close family bonds, Goberdhan said he will always be proud to be gay. This month of June, he said he plans to celebrate by attending different pride parades. Goberdhan hopes to spread further awareness to help members of the LGBTQ+ community who are struggling to express their identities openly.
“I think a lot more can be done to help the LGBTQ+ community with self awareness and self confidence, especially for those who are not out yet or are afraid to come out,” he said. There needs to be more resources and open dialogue should be available for those who are questioning their sexuality.
Goberdhan also thinks recognition of the LGBTQ community should not just be for one month every year because at the end of Pride month, “I will still be gay … years down the line, I will still be gay. The same energy should go into every month.”
For Baldwin resident Jarod Dimatos, 24, he said he has also experienced discrimination because of his identity as genderqueer or queer, which he claims is described as a slur reclaimed by the [LGBTQ+] community, a conglomeration of the gender binary and outside the gender binary.
Dimatos said he uses both “he” and “him” and “they” and “them” pronouns to identify himself. He has identified as bisexual, pansexual and he currently identifies as genderqueer.
“My identity and fluidity reign freely throughout my style, attitude and passion, and to be LGBTQ+, to be queer, is to possess survival and unique capabilities that those that are cisgender and heterosexual cannot access,” Dimatos said.
“I’ve experienced conversion therapy, lovely hospital visits and physical bullying. It is within my core belief that when people do not understand something it becomes a phobia, something they hate, which by definition is always irrational,” he added.
During Pride month, Dimatos said he plans to continue to participate in and support as many queer-led events and artists. He hopes to support local queer artists, drag performers, Black queer artists and Black drag performers.
“The importance of pride month is the conscious and aggressive reminder that LGBTQ+ people are still being very much oppressed today,” he said.
He said he will spend the remainder of June educating and exposing himself to drag culture, ballroom culture, queer etiquette, queer icons and queer fashion. Dimatos hopes to attend various pride parades, as well.
“I speak only for myself, but I find extreme comfort in gay, bi, queer men, lesbian women, trans women, trans men, nonbinary folkx and anyone queer,” Dimatos said. “My experiences with my friends and family who are members of the LGBTQ+ is one that I find myself incapable of having with anyone that’s not queer.”
Baldwin resident, Malik Somers, 24, who indentifies as gay, said he is glad Pride month exists; however, he said, he finds the month does not stop discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I’m a Black, gay and proud man who supports and wants the LGBTQ+ community’s need for human rights to be heard and regardless of your sexual orientation, gender, and race, LGBTQ+ are human rights,” Somers said.
Although Somers was recently fully vaccinated against Covid, he said, for Pride month, he will not attend any pride parades because he does not feel comfortable around large groups of people due to the pandemic.
“I’m choosing to celebrate how far I’ve come, the person I am today,” he said. “Without Pride month, the majority of Americans wouldn’t know the stories that are told about revolutionaries that worked, fought and died for the LGBTQ+ community.”