PFLAG National intern Katie Montana (she/her/they/them) writes about her experience living abroad as a lesbian in her third blog. Katie is from Jacksonville, Florida and is a rising senior at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where she studies Modern History.
My Experience of Finding Home as a LGBTQ+ Community Member
I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but also grew up in Charlotte, N.C., Fort Mill, S.C., Jacksonville, Fla. and London, England. For me, home isn’t necessarily a place: home is made up of the people and the connections I have made.
This is why I was eager to study abroad for my time in college, and I decided to do so in Scotland. Though I did not have any family or friends in the country, I was ecstatic to expand my definition of home even further. It was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made. I have learned more, made more friends, and expanded my horizons further than I ever felt possible.
I spent the majority of my childhood in the South, and for the most part I loved living in these cities. Though the majority of people I met were open-minded and caring, I did, however, unfortunately witness some anti-LGBTQ rhetoric around me growing up. For example, I once drove past an anti-LGBTQ group protesting a pride event one summer, and I remember that one of their signs said, “Stop forcing your agenda on us.”
One of the reasons I chose to study abroad, and specifically in St Andrews, Scotland, is because of its progressive laws and attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. From pride parades to hosting LGBTQ+ affirming campaigns, my town and university have shown their affirming attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, I have become friends with LGBTQ+ community members from all over the world, which has been a truly life changing experience. Being able to hear the incredible stories that these college friends have shared with me has been an honor like no other.
Living abroad has been extremely liberating, and it gave me the confidence I needed to have when returning home. When I came back to the States to be with my amazing family and study remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was greeted by old friends with a well-intentioned, yet difficult question:
“Do you have a boyfriend yet in Scotland?”
After nearly three years of living in and among an LGBTQ+ affirming community while abroad, that question always surprises me. Thankfully, the experience of feeling supported and affirmed by my community has given me the confidence to proudly respond, “no,” and when I feel safe and comfortable to do so, to add, “I’m gay.”
My definition of home has certainly been expanded more than I ever felt possible, especially due to the fact that I was and still am able to proudly tell the people that I love who I really am! Home for me is the love I share with my community, and no matter how far away I am from them for the foreseeable future, I know that their love and support extends beyond what I ever once thought was possible.