LGBTQ Center intern promotes positivity


Junior social geography major Emily Grubb poses for a portrait outside the LGBTQ Student Center on the lower level of the Kent Student Center on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. Grubb is an intern at the center, as well as an advocate for the LGBT community.

Adriona Murphy

At about 6 foot 4 inches with hair constantly changing color — currently a pastel lilac — and facial hair, Emily Grubb has a presence difficult to miss in the Kent State LGBTQ Student Center.

The social geography major radiates an infectious attitude and never fails to greet every visitor with a smile from the small desk in the front of the center.

The rainbow flag with the word ‘love’ scrawled across the front adds to the space, conveying an overall sense of pride to visitors.

Although Grubb’s positivity is apparent in every encounter, it has not always been that way.

Grubb is a survivor of several instances of rape and sexual assault, and dealt with parental abuse as a child. Coping with the after effects of these has been hard on Grubb, causing them to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and even anger issues when they were younger.

“(PTSD) is is not very nice to me … sometimes I can’t sleep due to nightmares or flashbacks or those kinds of things,” Grubbs said. “Because … I was raped three times … my father was physically abusive, and I was bullied quite heavily. So things kind of add up.”

In addition, Grubb also identifies on the autism spectrum, which has presented challenges for them.

“Being autistic, I never knew how to react to people, especially when they were very mean to me,” Grubb said.

Nothing is ever easy to explain in their life, Grubb said. After several years of moving around, Grubb and their family settled in Medina, Ohio. Around the age of 10, Grubb’s parents divorced. Growing up in Medina was difficult for them because the area wasn’t the most friendly if you were gay, according to Grubb.

“Sometimes I wish I could go back and stop the kids who bullied me,” Grubb said. “Somedays I wish I could slap myself because sometimes — to fit — in I would bully someone … I thought that was fitting in.”

Although they still deal with the anxiety of going through these difficulties, Grubb has come a long way from where they were only a few years ago. By using laughter and trying to turn negative experiences into positive ones, Grubb is able to take everything as a learning experience.

“I always like to think of myself as an optimist because whenever anything goes bad … there is always a bright side,” Grubb said. “There’s always a learning moment and there’s always a time to see what your next steps might be.”

After everything they’ve been through, Grubb uses this as motivation to help others who have been through similar situations or are currently struggling.

“I’ve been through so many things with being gay … non-binary, with abuse, rape, that I … find that I can relate to everyone in some way,” Grubb said. “It’s been a journey, to say the least. It takes a lot of time. I’ve been through countless therapists … It’s a long process that I’m still going through, but it does get better.”

Due in part to this motivation, Grubb has worked as an intern for the LGBTQ Student Center since January. They are responsible for welcoming guests to the center and gathering their contact information. In addition, they provide information and referral when students need help or emotional support.

“It seems like (Grubb has been here) way longer than that because they’ve done a ton,” said Ken Ditlevson, director of the LGBTQ Student Center. “If we didn’t have intern’s like Emily, 50 percent of the time the center would just be closed because (the program coordinator and I) would be in meetings.”

Grubb helps coordinate the social media sites, designs the brochures and assists in the creation of different programming. Grubb was a key piece in the creation of a transgender 101 training — another part of safe space training that goes more in depth on transgender issues and needs. They drafted the first version of the program that was later used to create a final version.

“They’ve been a really important part of the team and for higher level projects,” Ditlevson said. “I know Emily will get them accomplished in line with branding standards and getting our measures and outcomes figured out.”

In addition to their role as an intern, Grubb has participated in mission trips through their mother’s church, and is dedicated to advocating for several causes including mental health, sexual assault and poverty.

“I’m currently at a place where I’m happy with myself and I’m happy with the work I’m doing,” Grubb said.

Although life was not always easy, Grubb did find support and love through their mother, who played a very important role throughout their childhood.

“My mom was really close to me, and then when I came out in my freshman year of high school … my mom came out five minutes later,” Grubb said. “She married my father because she wanted just a normal life. She wanted to have kids and those kinds of things … She’s now married to her wonderful partner, who I very much love, so I kind of have a step-mom now and my step-mom has her own daughter who she adopted with her previous partner. So I also have a step-sister.”

Those who work with Grubb say that they bring a very positive attitude and are incredibly caring to all of those around them.

“When I think about Emily, it is automatically energy,” said Irene Altieri, a sophomore chemistry major and intern at the LGBTQ office. “When my dad passed away, they were one of the first people who was like ‘I’m here if you need me,’ or they would check up on me all the time. It was really nice to feel that.”

When Grubb was growing up, both of their parents were professors at the Culinary Institute of America. Because of this, they felt the pressure to go into the food industry.

After college, however, Grubb hopes to find a job at a university — preferably Kent State — that will allow them to go to graduate school to receive their master’s degree in higher education administration. As for higher goals, Grubb has one main one: happiness.

“My parents have accomplished so much … and so trying to live up to that is scary,” Grubb said. “My thing in life that I really want to do is to just be happy. Because I know whatever I do, it’s probably not going to live up to everyone else.

Grubb said they shouldn’t be comparing themselves to anyone — or even to how they were the previous day.

“Just as long as I’m happy, then who cares? I’m happy; I’m living my life how I want it,” Grubb said.

Adriona Murphy is the education, health and human services reporter, contact her at [email protected].