Community, it seems to be an illusive creature in the Pacific Northwest. Community is difficult to describe, but so blissful once found. It can be a place to learn and grow; a place to be disappointed but not give up hope. Community can be challenging yet fulfilling; brutal and unsafe. The greatest trait of community is it can be built with one simple task: authenticity. Showing up as your authentic self is the only requirement to build a thriving and sustainable community. Yet authentic self seems to be rare and on the endangered list. As we sift through our complicated identities do we lose site of authentic self? I would have said no prior to my 10 days of Camp community. My whole goal in joining this community was to be fully in my queer self as I am everyday in my Black self, disabled self, storytelling self, hippie self and empathic self. All layers of my true self were lost. I forgot who I was for a few days. My core was shaken. The last four years I have met, fell in love with and celebrated my authentic self. I couldn't see her in the mirror at camp.
Authentic Regent made some afraid. Made quite a few mad, some jealous and even a couple proclaimed their hatred. Some flirted wildly but shut down when a professional showed up. I stuffed myself away. I wanted to protect the precious authentic me for those who I knew appreciated it. It was in that place of hiding I had my realization about this community. They had been hurt for so long that only their spiny quills showed to those new. Yes, there was oppressive and racist structures, but that is every where. Yes, there was privilege due to class and nationalism, but that is most places in this country. What was missing was permission. There was no permission to make mistakes, to miss a name or forget a pronoun. No permission to be sensitive or need a few minutes to process information coming at you fast. No permission to question authority or wonder why some friends weren't present. It's time you give yourself permission.