EIU student opens up about hardships of being queer


Adriana Hernandez-Santana

Cayleigh Rath, social chair for Eastern Illinois University’s Pride group, poses for a portrait in the greenhouse Monday afternoon.

Adriana Hernadez-Santana, Junior Feature Editor

Self-identity is a way of knowing who you are as a person and who you are meant to be. For some, they know exactly who that is. And for others, they have to do a little bit more soul searching to find out who they really are. 

But that’s why having good relationships to help you find your way is so important. 

Cayleigh Rath, the Social Chair member of EIU Pride here on campus, says that she does everything she can to help ensure that all members have a safe space to find those connections, and make some friends along the way. 

Rath does admit that growing up, she did not have the best LGBTQ+ friendly environment. Growing up in Southern Illinois, she felt like she had to repress the way she felt at times. 

“Everybody there would be like, marry a man, settle down, you know, very housewife energy which is so weird because, like, when you go to Chicago or Champaign, they’re very much not like that,” Rath said. 

Anything other than the “norm” was considered taboo.

The experience that really stuck out to her was when her cousin had come out to their family as transgender. 

The family was not accepting. 

“They continued to bully him continuously, even though, like, he would say his preferred name, pronouns, like identity, and like it got to the point where the rest of the family would ostracize him,” Rath said. 

Things like consistent bullying and lack of acceptance are just some of the few problems members of the LGBTQ+ community struggle with. 

For some members, it gets better. 

For others…they don’t always get to see the good side. 

Rath does say that her dad’s side was not very supportive of her cousin, which does make her nervous to say her truth.

Her mother, she believes, would be supportive of her. 

“Yeah, she’s very, you know, you can be whoever you want to be and sometimes like, I can tell what she means,” Rath said. “Like you do whatever you want to do, honey.” 

Rath realizes that although she may want to come out to her family as queer, the road to acceptance isn’t going to be easy. 

That being said, she does want to extend her help to anyone that is struggling with a similar situation or coming out. What’s helped her a ton is finding a safe community of friends to talk with and grow.

She wants to offer the same things to anyone interested in joining EIU Pride.

“If I were to come out to [my parents], or when I would come out to them, I would honestly bring Pride up,” Rath said. “This is an organization that I’m proud to say that I’ve been a part of, and it’s made me feel that people like my cousin and people like me have a place to at least, talk to people about their experiences… I wouldn’t want any other job because I like the aspect of having fun with the people you share your community with.” 


Adriana Hernandez-Santana can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].