This piece was originally delivered at Triangle Community Center's 11th annual Visionary Party: Mardi Gras by the author, Ashlynn Summerland, who speaks about her difficult journey and experiences utilizing the programs and services available at Triangle Community Center.
There’s been a lot of tough times in my life and a lot of those times I wanted to just call it quits. I’ve been hopelessly hungry and desperately poor, with no one to turn to for help. I grew up feeling like an outsider in my own family, a family that treated me poorly because of my mental issues and the fact that I couldn't find the answers I needed in their holy buildings. The one exception to all of that was my mother, my first best friend and the first death that I would have to come to terms with.
As a kid I thought the world was all rainbows and unicorns, the best things in the world. Then reality stepped back in and my self esteem slowly faded. By the time I entered middle school everything was "my fault".The self enduced seclusion that I put myself in was my only promise of happiness. So said my young naive brain.
I carried on through the years, mostly by myself, not understanding the growing internal struggle that was growing inside of me was due to the sexuality that was who I really was. Despite being called "Sex Ed" there is a depressing lack of subjects that are covered in that class.
I never had that moment I've heard about, wherein there is a denial of self, when you discover that your sexuality is somewhere else on the sexuality spectrum AND the gender spectrum. It felt like everything made sense. I understood why my group of friends was a bunch of girls and a guy that we all agreed wasn't that bad. I also understood why I found that hot guy in school SO attractive, but the popular girl in school was just as breathtakingly beautiful, but my gender nonconforming friend was the person I ended up with.
So I finally understood myself and it made me feel happiness that I had begun to doubt was a real thing. I mean that was it right? I was happy so life would be perfect and what I've always dream of. Yeahhh, no. My life was still a struggle that I truly couldn't deal with by myself.
It was at that time that I walked through the doors of Triangle Community Center.
I was introduced to a case manager that asked me questions about me and wanted to help me become a better person. I wasn’t use to people caring about me enough to pay attention, much less help me without asking something in return. I was happy and accepted for the first time in my life because of a feeling that is nearly impossible to explain so let me put it this way.
I’ve made friends here that I would fight for and friends who would fight for me. I’ve met people who make me laugh so hard that I can’t breathe in the best way possible. I’ve found motivation so powerful that I find myself day dreaming of a bright future that holds the answer to the age old question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
TCC makes the future a possibility for me and so many other amazing people. TCC gives us the tools we need to build our own future. One where the only limits are the ones we make. A future that proves that the LGBTQ+ community is strong and resiliant and better than the hate we’re the victims of.
The world we live in now isn’t the same one that I was born into. There’s hate for no reason and love is on life support. But with the efforts of all the people who work at TCC, love is getting stronger everyday. Love is going to everyone of the people that have helped to make TCC as strong and successful as it is. Love is going to everyone who comes though their doors and needs someone to care for them.
TCC isn’t just a community center. It’s more than just a place for case managment. It’s a place of acceptance and love. It’s a home away from home that opens it’s arm to you, regardless of gender identity, skin color or sexuality. You can be who you truly are without fear of being bullied or insulted. TCC is what lies at the end of the rainbow and it’s way better than a pot of gold could ever hope to be.