Student Experience

There is this picture.

It is four members of my dialogue group and me gathered around a computer with the happiest of faces, thoroughly engaged with and entertained by what is on my computer screen. People in my group probably know which picture I’m referring to; to those of you that don’t, then you just don’t stalk my mobile uploads on Facebook well enough.

In any case, I will always remember the moment portrayed in the picture. We look like we’re actively engaged in a meaningful perusal of online sources relating to or supporting issues of diversity. What we’re actually doing is googling various types of the stereotypical “baseball t-shirt” (you know, the one with a different color body and sleeves) and learning that “heather” refers to the type of weaving style that we uniformly decided we preferred. Sitting in the middle of this online shopping adventure, typing various combinations of “baseball” and “t-shirt” and “heather,” I felt overcome not only by the inevitable financial burden I was about to place on myself from buying too many of the shirts, but also — and more importantly — by the love and support that I felt in the moment. It was the knowing kind of love, the kind of love that allows for the transcendence of identity to focus on the trivial. And it felt great.

When I say the word “love,” I’m sure its brings up certain concepts and ideas in your mind, and many of these were discussed during our time in the dialogue on gender and sexuality. There were multiple instances in which our conversations on sexuality began to challenge my opinions on what it means to love and what it means to be loved. And our conversations on gender began to formulate, for me, the kind of people we are when we love and who we choose to love. From this dialogue, I had hoped to gain a better sense of who I was in relation to others — and, conversely, who others were in relation to me — as we meaningfully disclosed our identities, in various ways, in various forms, to each other this past semester.

This dialogue effectively conveyed to me the ways in which we are all inherently intertwined and connected, always in relation to each other, although still independent, and unified by this common sense of love. I know that this common sense of love is all to rare and sparse, but I also also know that it isn’t. That it is far more present than we sometimes care to notice or succeed in realizing and that sometimes we need programs like A Different Dialogue and people like those in my group to remind us that it can be all around us. There have been times in my life in which I never thought someone could truly know me and love me, but A Different Dialogue has opened my mind — and heart — to the loving world around me and the others with whom I navigate this space. At times, this group has 2 made me confront my profound discomfort with my own gender and sexuality, but from this challenging environment, I have gained a deeper, more powerful understanding of my identities and those of others. I have learned that I am worth loving — that we are all worth loving — and gender identities and sexuality are in no way obstacles to this.

Tom Stoppard, the great playwright, says on love: “It’s to do with knowing and being known.” End quote. Love is knowing for me. While I once may have come to the sessions for the free food, I now keep coming back for the love and support that is given so freely. I was driven to this dialogue by a deep-seated and innate desire to create community and find this knowing kind of love. When I left for college, I thought I left my family behind, but this A Different Dialogue experience — and the wider social justice community as a whole — has taught me that my family is right here.

Thank you, all, for being here, for being part of these important dialogues, for knowing each other, and for maybe even knowing yourself. I wish you all moments gathered around a computer screen shopping for shirts you clearly need, finding facts about weaving styles you definitely need to learn, surrounded by people with the knowing kind of love. 

-Grace Smith, COL '18