by Hollis Humphrey
Living in the same city my entire life, I felt deeply connected to the community around me in my hometown, but at the same time I felt ready to grow, itching to experience something new and different. I was exhausted with my mundane experience and longed for a chance to seek community and build a place that felt my own. Moving to Orlando and going to college at UCF was my first step in this process. Any freshman-year-of-college anxieties were quickly overrun by my sheer excitement at getting to experience things I never had before.
The very first week of classes I experienced an organization that would bring me the true sense of belonging and community I was seeking at UCF. After my morning astronomy class, a friend and I decided to attend “Lavender Brunch,” a drag event hosted by UCF’s LGBTQ+ Services. The event was fun and exciting and the first time I had experienced queer community on campus. When they advertised applications to join the Lavender council, I knew I wanted that to be me. I filled out the application, attended the interview and eventually, after convincing myself I was terribly unqualified and not going to be accepted, received an email offering me a position while in my statistics lecture. I was proud of myself, and incredibly excited to meet the team and begin working with everyone.
Events became an excuse for us to hang out as friends while still serving our organization’s purpose, of course. I had found more than just a community I could be a part of, but a group of friends who made me feel like family, like I was home.
Jumping headfirst into our responsibilities, I took every opportunity I could, attending each event, training, and tabling event that I could physically cram into my schedule. The first month flew by, and I felt empowered not only by knowing I was facilitating the connection of students with their community, but also forming my own. Seeing the other Lavender Council members all the time meant I got the chance to connect about their classes, interests and identities. We kept in touch on social media and in attending and planning our meetings. Events became an excuse for us to hang out as friends while still serving our organization’s purpose, of course. I had found more than just a community I could be a part of, but a group of friends who made me feel like family, like I was home.
As my freshman year came to a close, so did my first year as a Lavender Council member. I knew my work wasn’t finished and that I still had room to grow in the role, so I applied for a second year and continued my work. I continued to plan my own events, took on new responsibilities and learned more about myself as a team member and leader, and learned more about my community. While these responsibilities were often exhausting, and the political climate regarding the community we served was often discouraging, it made every event, every act of community so much more valuable to me.
Over the last two years I have spent many, many hours serving as an educator, facilitator, event planner, and helping hand, assisting in the wide variety of events LGBTQ+ Services is responsible for. Creating my own event series, and seeing people attend, enjoy, and connect through it made me realize that there were opportunities to form community everywhere. Through fostering community with my own events that I planned and executed with the help of Lavender Council, I witnessed how other people were actively seeking community, and being able to provide that place of connection and acceptance made me know confidently that UCF and Lavender Council were my home.
Although my time on Lavender Council has come to an end, I left my position knowing undoubtedly that I have a place at UCF, and that I worked hard to ensure that other students experience that same sense of belonging, community, and welcomeness that I felt at that first Lavender Brunch.
Lavender Council applications are currently open! If you’re looking to find your home and community at UCF through a leadership opportunity I would highly recommend applying and generally attending the events put on by LGBTQ+ Student Support Services! (Applications close September 1st).