For this month’s column we meet Rudy Dillard, an honors graduate from Cape Henlopen High School (CHHS). She is planning to attend Philadelphia’s Saint Joseph’s University.
Ruby was a very active board member at Cape's GSA (Gender & Sexualities Alliance), playing a pivotal role in planning the first GSA Youth Gathering this past March. Rudy is considered to be a true leader and will be an amazing voice and advocate for our LGBTQ+ young community. Ms. Jayne Fetterman and Ms. Garnett are the GSA advisors at Cape. Sherril Moon is the GSA mentor. There are an estimated 50 GSA members. – Barbara Antlitz, CAMP Rehoboth Youth Coordinator
Finding a Community
by Ruby Dillard
Entering high school was relatively easy for me in the realm of the LGBTQ+ community. My older sister was a junior and already in the Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at Cape Henlopen High School, two of my friends were in a lesbian relationship, and my bedroom walls were adorned with colors of the pansexual pride flag. Looking back, I was a heavily supported, but overly confident member of the homosexual community who wore her identity casually and underestimated how deeply the GSA would guide her through the next four years.
I had come out as pansexual to my family and friends before my freshman year with no difficulty, though I took for granted how blessed I was and am to live in such a safe environment. I spent nights before coming out trying to shape my identity into a heterosexual fantasy only to realize that the futile convincing was the behavior of someone separate from that binary.
After recognizing my internalized homophobia, though lacking awareness of this title, I journeyed through my first year of high school in what now only consists of vague memories. I do recall idealizing the members of GSA and this admiration continued through my sophomore year as my older sister became GSA president.
In my second year of high school, whether it was a feeling of doubt, a need for change, or pressure to align myself with the most inclusive community, I began to identify as omnisexual. I was glad my bedroom walls were only adorned with construction paper, so I could create the new flag while ensuring my parents would one day get their security deposit back.
I remember reading the definition of omnisexual as an attraction to all genders that, unlike pansexuality, takes the gender of a person into account when looking for a partner. At the time, I felt secure in this identity because I knew I had an awareness of gender. But the label also came with constant need for explanation and defining that sometimes invaded my boundaries for sharing personal information. I felt lost between the guilt of abandoning another identity and the desire to find one that supported the most honest form of myself.
My appreciation for the GSA really developed in my junior year. With my older sister moving on to college, I thought it would make sense to run for the GSA’s board of officers which also coincided with my desire to lead and to expand my activism in the LGBTQ+ community. Lo and behold, I was voted onto the board along with four other students, and we agreed not to continue a board-hierarchy since the organization focuses on equality and community.
This agreement was the first of many, introducing me to new perspectives within the GSA and LGBTQ+ community, and I felt oddly comfortable facing disagreements and working with sensitive topics. The first half of my high school career felt like I was putting a microscope to my own identity, but the GSA created an environment where I was able to find people similar to me.
It was also in my junior year that I began to identify as bisexual. I felt connected to that label and, for the first time in my life, felt no need to explain why. Today, as a graduating senior, I fully identify as a bisexual, cisgender female with she/her pronouns. I do not believe I would have been able to say that without the support of the GSA. From having the privilege to host in-school meetings, to attending after-school discussions, to simply talking to my advisors and fellow members, the GSA has guided me to a new sense of community.
I am blessed to work with the local PFLAG and CAMP Rehoboth, especially with Barbara Antlitz who has been spreading the joy I’ve experienced within the GSA to schools across southern Delaware. I know I will work to be an active member in Saint Joseph’s University’s GSA next year, and I am content moving forward knowing that young people in this area have the support they need as they journey through their identities and work to feel the most comfortable in themselves.
Barbara Antlitz, CAMP Rehoboth’s Youth Coordinator, is working with GSAs in middle and high schools in Sussex and Kent Counties, and with other groups supporting LGBTQ+ youth. Barbara can be reached by email at email@example.com