News | Student Life

Senior profile: Gerardo Romo, CC

  • Cindy Ma / Senior Staff Photographer
    For Community | “I want to go to Columbia, and I want to find my gay community,” Gerardo Romo said.

This senior profile is part of Spectator’s 2014 commencement special issue. Check out the 17 other senior profiles, the class day ceremony recaps, and a timeline of the biggest events of the last four years.

Gerardo Romo, CC ’14, first found out about Columbia from a brochure he received in his mailbox after taking the PSAT his sophomore year in high school. It was from that moment on that he decided he wanted to come to New York City.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I want to go to Columbia, and I want to find my gay community,’” he said. “I was going through it [the brochure] and people were talking about the Core and stuff, and I saw gay faces. ... I was like, ‘I want to go,’ and I didn’t really realize how hard it is to get in there because I’d never heard of it.”

Romo, an ethnic studies major with a track in Latino studies and a special concentration in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, was the first student ever to come to Columbia from his high school in Perris, California. As the founder of his high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance—the first in his school district—Romo recalled feeling lonely as one of only a few out students at his school of 3,000.

“There was a lot of homophobia, a lot of name-calling and stuff—it was very isolating,” he said. “I came to Columbia with a very specific vision of wanting to be involved in queer stuff because I had very specifically left my hometown to try and find a queer community.”

But once Romo arrived at Columbia, he said it was difficult to find his place within the University community because of his different background. He said he started going to Counseling and Psychological Services because, though he didn’t want to be alone, he felt anxious whenever he was with a group of people.

“A lot of people were coming from private schools. I feel like there’s some similar bond people have when they’re coming from these well-off places—even people who grew up poor, but they ended up going to private schools, boarding schools—I feel like they have a sense of cultural knowledge,” he said. “I felt very isolated, and I felt really sad, and I was just like, ‘What did I do?’” 

Although Romo joined both the Columbia Queer Alliance and Everyone Allied Against Homophobia, Columbia’s two main undergraduate LGBT groups, he said he didn’t feel like he found his place in the queer community until moving to Q House his sophomore year and joining Proud Colors—an LGBT group for students of color that he later led.

“I didn’t feel like I had a community, I didn’t feel like we were fighting for the stuff I wanted to fight for, and I didn’t feel like I fit in with the queer community,” he said. “My sophomore year, I was in Proud Colors, I was in Q House, and that was when everything changed for me, because in Q House—I wasn’t alone anymore.” 

Soon, Romo started managing the Proud Colors listserv and worked to expand the organization. He served as an executive board member until his senior year. When Romo first became involved, Proud Colors had about four active members. The group now has around 20 active members.

“Proud Colors ... was where I really found my space because ... we could really talk about anything,” he said. “It was a space where we talked about our experience, we talked about our bodies, how we feel about our bodies, what it means to have a queer community whose aesthetic is based on a white body.” 

Romo said the best part about being a senior in Proud Colors was seeing first-years find a home in the group.

“A lot of people first coming here and when they say, ‘I don’t know where I would be if we didn’t have Proud Colors’—people say that every year and that’s very powerful for me,” he said. “Because I know where I was without Proud Colors.”

“The queer community in general—from Q House to CQA—everyone is conscious that there’s privilege in the queer community,” he said. “And Proud Colors forces people to acknowledge it. We are a solid board—there’s nothing that’s going to tear us down.” 

After graduation, Romo said he hopes to continue to build communities for marginalized peoples within already existing hierarchies, much like what he has done in college. 

“Unless we’re intervening and challenging it, nothing’s going to change, because these power structures are normalized in our society,” he said. “Unless you challenge it, you’re going to internalize it and reproduce it.”

elizabeth.sedran@columbiaspectator.com  |  @ezactron

This senior profile is part of Spectator’s 2014 commencement special issue. Check out the 17 other senior profiles, the class day ceremony recaps, and a timeline of the biggest events of the last four years.

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Congratulations Gerardo!! You have truly changed the landscape of this campus.

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