The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

“If Only They Knew…”

Sarah Dutton | Photography Editor

Bailey McDaniel smokes a cigarette while sitting on a picnic table on the back patio of Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern in Starkville, MS one late evening.

Have you ever talked to someone and thought to yourself “If only they knew?” If so, keep reading. 

Life obviously has its ups and downs. You may wake up some days with every intent to conquer the world with the same determination and energy you had when you were younger and first found out someone walked on the moon the same way you walk over grass on the Earth.  Other days, it takes absolutely everything in you to rip yourself out of bed when you wake up to tend to responsibilities that society and the culture around us influence.

Of course, I cannot speak for absolutely everyone, but most people have an off day or two in between the exceptionally great and seemingly bland ones. These off days come at different times for each of us, and these tensions can be magnified by differences in age, socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexuality, race and occupation.

Thus, it is not surprising that every once in a while we experience a bit of dissonance. What is this dissonance? Is this really dissonance? If so, how do we combat it?

When people interact, it is typical to judge one another on a black and white spectrum of “Do I like them, or not?” I personally do not see a problem with that. First impressions are things we all have. 

However, when you start creating a story for that individual based on assumptions, stereotypes, schemas and biases, you tend to write his or her story for them… before they have the opportunity to tell it themselves. That is when I have a problem; individuals are not truly being heard. 

This is where I feel dissonance starts: the moment we silence people. What if we just listened? Would there be dissonance if we listened with the intent to understand rather than the intent to respond?

In light of events in my own life when I have personally thought “If only they knew” and the stories I have had the honor of listening to, I present to you my project, If Only They Knew (IOTK)… This project is a continuing series generated to help voice the unheard words that lay gray within the black and white spectrum. 

However, this continuing series is not limited. This is also for people who are already heard, if not even more so for them. Why? Because their voice is valued and listened to, something that is foreign to others. They have the opportunity to raise the voices who are not heard.

I want to start a conversation that begins the end of this dissonance. However, it would not be fair if I asked everyone to be vulnerable without sharing a bit of my own vulnerability as well.

In my own experience, I have thought if only they knew I have struggled with an anxiety disorder and mood disorder since I was a teenager. If only they knew these disabilities make me put up barriers and guard myself from feeling when truly all I want to do is feel as much in this life as possible. 

If only they knew my anxiety derives from years of sexual and emotional abuse, such as gas lighting and invalidation of my history with domestic abuse. If only they knew it is a constant battle every day to fight these invisible demons that only half of society accepts. 

If only they knew photography literally saved my life. If only they knew that I am human just like them; we are all multiple layers of star dust compiled to make something much bigger than ourselves, and I feel sometimes we forget that. If only they knew I loved them infinitely, and have faith that we can figure out this dissonance and a solution to it together.

I am growing and experiencing things so very different alongside others experiencing things in their own ways. If we all just listened to one another, I think we would realize we are a lot more similar than we are different. 

If you got to this point, you obviously found a portion of this concept that resonates with you. So, here’s to me growing, you growing  and us growing together. Through If Only They Knew…let’s begin to truly listen to these stories. 

They are the stories of people who hope to change our perceptions, so we can understand the struggles we do not know.  I will document these people for you, myself and most importantly, those that want to be heard. 

Let’s listen as these voices so our collective voice can be heard by everyone. Let’s listen to Bailey McDaniel first. Continue below to read her story in full. 

Bailey McDaniel – Junior Criminolgy Major – Mississippi State University – Corinth, MS
S: So, you’re from Corinth, MS. Born and raised?
B: I grew up with the same kids that I was birthed in the same hospital with. One of my really good friends was born the day after I was born, and we had the same nurse that was pregnant with another one of my other good friends while she was the nurse for my mom and her mom. It was crazy. We were really into it. But, roughly 3 months before I graduated high school I moved to Pearl, MS, and I graduated with like 400 people that I did not know at all. It was interesting.
S: Did you make any friends while you were there?
B: I did not. I actually had a really, really hard time while I was there… because, it was like a culture shock. I went to a school with a class of 86 that I had been born in the same hospital with. 3 months before I graduated I moved to school with 400 people and graduated with those 400 people that I did not know.
S: And then you started at Mississippi State University as a freshman with a declared major or no?
B: Yeah. Well, I came here for Biomedical Engineering and then I was like, “I don’t really wanna do this.” So right before my freshman year I switched to Criminology and decided I wanted to be a cop.
S: What made you decide to do that?
B: I’ve always wanted to be a cop and right the wrongs that I’ve seen. I had bad experiences with the police when I was in my hometown, and I constantly thought to myself that this isn’t what police should be like. Police should be people that you are comfortable with, people that you respect, that you trust, and that you know you can go to. Eventually I decided that I needed to be that person for somebody. I felt I could do that through law enforcement, so I decided I really wanted to study crime and learn more about it. Then, I started doing gender studies and made it my minor. Immediately, I was like, “I love this.” My first ‘crim’ class that I took, I immediately thought I had found where I’m supposed to be.
S: You also worked for the student newspaper. How did working for The Reflector come about?
B: So, I love to write. I love writing. I love reading. I’ve always been into journalism. I read the newspaper every morning with my grandfather when I was younger; It was a thing. So, I figured that since I was on the yearbook staff in high school that I could start writing for the Reflector when I got here. Then, my editor said, “Hey this position for Opinion Editor is open. Do you wanna do it?” I had no idea what it would entail at all. But, I said, “Hell yeah,” and I went in feet first and instantly loved it. That was about the same time I started doing my activism work. So, it was awesome. I had to stop once I became an RA though.
S: What all do you do with your activism work?
B: I started out working with the LGBTQ + Union. It’s the activist group for LGBTQ students. I’m the president.
S: Did you start off as the president?
B: No, started off as a member. I did a protest with them and was like, “This is it. This is my niche. This is my thing.”  
S: What was the protest for?
B: We did a protest on Consuming Fire when they came my first year. Then, they repealed the Plus One Initiative. They repealed the equality resolution. We did a protest for that too. It was our ‘We are Starkville’ protest where we took pictures with signs and hashtags that said, “We are Starkville” It was our way of saying we matter as people. and you basically just said we didn’t by your actions. After that I was like, “Oh, I love this.” Then the position [as president] fell into my lap, and I’ve been president ever since the first semester of my sophomore year.
S: So, basically Consuming Fire helped fuel the flame to your fire with activism.
B: It definitely did. Soon, I started going to council meetings and city board meetings. Then, I started doing live tweeting and people started following. That’s when I started getting immersed into the community and continuously realizing this is what I want to do and work with. I started writing in the paper about these things such as title IX and things I had dealt with.
S: So just being comfortable with being yourself is what helped it take off from there?
B: Yeah and realizing I was comfortable enough with myself to have a voice for the community. I’m not saying that it’s all on me but I was a person to say something.
S: So, how was the journey leading up to being comfortable with yourself? Would you say you’re completely comfortable with yourself now or do you feel it’s an ongoing process?
B: On the outside I’m completely comfortable with myself. On the inside I have a lot to work on. I just started seeing a counselor. I’ve got a lot of anxiety issues that are slowly starting to get larger and larger. Eventually, I was kinda like, “Oh, hey, I really need to do something about this before it becomes a problem.” Now, as I’m seeing this counselor, we’re realizing that I don’t have a good self-esteem. I don’t think I like myself at all. But, I put on a front as if I’m put together. People are always like, “You seem like you have your life together,” or, “You seem okay.” I am, but I’m not. I am because I feel like I have to be. But, I also have so much good that I’ve done and so much good has come from the work I’ve done that there are things I am proud of. But, I’m learning to appreciate myself and see myself as having worth. No one really knows that, because I don’t seem like that on the outside, and it’s a bit of an internal battle that I’m just now dealing with.
S: Have you ever seen a therapist before?
B: Nope. Never.
S: What pushed you finally to decide to see one?
B: Uhm, I was sitting in physics class and the teacher mentioned something about the world was slowly compacting in on itself, and eventually we’re going to have to explode again for a new universe to start again. That freaked me out. So, I had a panic attack in the middle of class. You didn’t see it, but internally it was really bad. I immediately thought, “You have to do something about this before it gets to the point of not being able to be doing something about this.” So, I went to go see a counselor. He’s really helping.
S: Obviously what your teacher said triggered the attack, but what do you think caused you to freak out?
B: It was more like a, “One day I’m going to die and I don’t want what I’ve done to not mean anything,” kind of thought process. Then, I started to think, “Well you really haven’t done anything.” But, I have. I know that I have. It’s just in my head thinking of myself as a garbage human, but I’m not a garbage human. I know that I’m not, but in my mind I’m very self-depreciating, and I’ve been like that all my life. I’ve never thought about it or ever really been aware of it. I’ll say, “Oh, I’m a hot mess,” or “Oh, I’m a garbage human,” or these things that are very self-depreciating and I need to not do that. He’s making me talk about it and be aware of these things that I’ve never realized before and how big of an issue it is. It all made me realize,”Oh, shit, I’m not going to do something that’s better for the future.”  Someone made it easier for me to be here, so I want to make it easier for the person after me. My fear is that I’m not going to.
S: What exactly do you mean someone made it easier?
B: Someone in history made it easier for me to be here because of their work. I want to make it easier for the generations after me and for it to be easier for them and their walks of life. Small example, I want them to come to Mississippi State knowing that they are welcome and that there is a place for them, specifically the LGBTQ community.  That’s why I try so hard with the Union. I want to send the message of, “We’re here. We’re visible. We’re here for you.” I want them to come to campus and be able to see us as that group the same way they were for me. During my first protest, how we all held hands.. I want that for someone else. But I feel like that moment of realization was this long drawn out process of like going from A to double Z all because my teacher made an analogy about stars. And, that’s anxiety. So, I just have to work on that. But, I think it’s good I’m aware of it. I’m very privileged in the fact that I am aware of it, and that I can do something about it, because I have counselors at the counseling center at the school. I’m trying to utilize the sources around me while I can.
S: You say that you’re trying to be more comfortable with yourself, are trying to combat this internal battle within yourself and are working on that with your therapist. How do you think that affects your role as president of the Union?
B: Well, we just had a meeting right before this and I said, “Guys, I am a human too. I have faults.” I guess they had never seen that whole side of me. I’m very, “We can do this. Let’s do this. Get it done.” I’ll be that person. I’ll be that confidant. I think for the first time they thought, “Hey, Bailey needs help too.” So, with that, I think we’re a lot closer. Well, definitely are. We’re about to all hangout actually. So, I feel like it’s opening me up to them to be able to say, “Hey, I need help too.” And, I’m not used to that. I’m always like if you need help with anything, come to me, and I will help you. For once, I’m like, “Hey, I could use a little bit of help.” So, I feel like it’s giving me more of a human aspect. I know they see me as human, but more empathetic to my struggles. Usually the ones who see me struggle know that I’m supposed to be struggling, like my adviser or my boss. They know I’m suppose to be struggling, but I don’t let the people leaning on me see that. They see that now and I think that’s good.
S: You said something along the lines of them seeing you as human. Instead of seeing you on a pedestal, and it’s not so much that they’re knocking you down, but rather they see you as more equivalent, because they see the similarities. Is that what you’re trying to say?
B: It’s almost like they are more comfortable talking to me now, because I never realized that’s what they needed. I’ve always felt like you needed the solid stone that can carry you when you need it, instead of actually having the courage to say, “Hey, we’ve been through the same thing. This is okay.” They still see me as not an authority figure, but more so as someone who can make things happen. It’s not a power thing to me, but as in I have the resources to do this for you. I can do this for you, while also having a personal connection.
S: You said y’all experienced the same thing. Do you mean your experience within the LGBTQ community?
B:  Yeah, there have been several instances. I was assaulted in my dorm my first semester on campus. That was an issue for me, because they asked, “Well, is that your boyfriend.” I had to say, “Oh, I don’t like boys.” That was kind of the first time and it was more of a forceful coming out. So, that was hard. That really made me build a barrier. I felt, “You gotta be a hard ass, because you showed your weakness, and now you’ve gotta make up for it.” There is that, and I carry everything. I carry people’s emotions. People tell me things and I carry it with me. So, I’m very sympathetic and empathetic. Even though I may not have experienced things personally, I’m going to carry and feel what others experience if they tell me. That’s hard. I let them overwhelm me. I get to the point of emotional breaking and I just sob. I have to figure out why it’s a constant flow of being okay and not okay at the same time. 
S: To kind of find that balance?
B: Yeah. I feel like counseling is helping with that, because he’s making me. I need to be comfortable with myself, like internally comfortable with myself, because outwardly I’m comfortable with myself. I can carry myself that says, “Hey, I’ve got this going on,” which is needed I think, but at the same time I need to have that inner strength to not crumble as much.
S: To not continue the cyclic effect of faking it until you make it..
B: Yeah, because I fake it until I break.
S: You said you feel everything with them, and it seems as if you’re carrying their burden with them and like you have a lot of stress on you. I’m assuming a lot of people reach out to you, especially with you being the president. How do you think that affects you?
B: I look at is as a good thing, because I am a cis-gendered white female, ya know? Slowly and slowly females are becoming more and more equal. But at the same time, I have the opportunity to experience oppression by being gay. With that, I am able to be like, “I might not know your specific situation, but I get where you’re coming from. Tell me what you need me to do, because you have helped me, so let me help you.” That works with all communities. I’m white. I can’t personally understand the oppression the black community feels. I will never be able to, and I shouldn’t try to understand that, because it’s not something I’ve ever experienced. However, they saw that I experienced oppression with my sexual orientation and they were aware of that and brought that into the movement the same as I brought the support of being able to say, “Hey, I talk to the white and LGBTQ community, ya know?” Speak to the population you can speak to. The same way they [African Americans] are speaking to their community. Not everyone is going to listen to me speaking about a platform that I know nothing about. In fact, no one is going to listen to me. It’s the same reason I wouldn’t want someone who is not gay speaking about my community. It’s allies helping the community. I feel like I carry that [feeling] with me as awareness. I look at someone that has told me an experience or something that is similar to another person. I know how they felt, or rather they told me how they felt and I feel it.  It gives me a way of carrying some of their burden so we can share the burden and make it better so someone else doesn’t have to carry the burden at all eventually. It gives me the chance to be a shoulder to lean on while still having a shoulder to lean on.
S: It’s sort of a mutual companionship?
B: Yes, and it’s also a mutual drive to make things better. That’s what you need. It’s not us against them, us against them, us against them; It’s us as a collaborative effort for the betterment. I guess a better way to put it is me against them. It’s my community against the social norm. Their community against the social norm. Their community against society. It’s our communities to be one community while still appreciating that we are separate yet one community, because you don’t want to make it where it’s, “No one has differences. No one has uniqueness.”
S: Kinda like people trying to be colorblind?
B: Colorblindess is not a thing. You see color and you appreciate color. You see uniqueness and you appreciate uniqueness. We are all one, but we’re all one with different aspects of one, and I think that’s important. Appreciate differences. Don’t cover them. Appreciate them. Don’t blanket them. Appreciate them.
S: How would you say that ideology will impact your work in the future for the greater good, whether it’s with the LGBTQ community or the bigger us in modern day society?
B: I feel like because I’ve experienced this so young and been immersed into this so young, I can go into situations and get people to talk by starting a conversation, maybe nudge my way into it, and just be culturally aware. For example, with my language. I never assume he or she. It’s they. I ask how others identify. Instead of seeing the differences of color, I am appreciating the uniqueness of community. I feel like that’s something that is huge, because I’m getting it at 20 years old. I’ll experience it at 40 years old. My children will know that, be raised with that, and go to teach other kids in school about that. They will have their own experiences and they will have their own oppression and their own uniqueness. But, they’ll have a bone stronger than I had, which is a bone stronger than the person before me had. It’s a cycle. My biggest thing is I want to make a generational difference, because millennials are huge. Eventually, generations are going to die out. But, we can make such a huge impact. I always say that if I can knock down one brick on the wall that is separation.. it’s one brick more than they had before.
S: What do you think our generational problem is?
B: Everyone always harps on millennials by saying, “Oh my god, you’re a millennial; You don’t have to do anything.” But at the same time, we’re doing a lot. People just aren’t appreciating what we’re doing, and I think the only problem we have with our generation is we’re too gullible. We take things at face value. We need to do our investigating. We need to not turn on the news. We need to read. We need to know what’s going and not listen to only what we like. Don’t listen to the person you’ve been listening to and take everything they say verbatim. Don’t look at a sign and think it’s cool and follow that movement. Know what the movement is about. Don’t do it, because it’s a fad. Do it, because you want to do it. And even if it is the same thing you would do if it was a fad, you know what you’re doing it for. Like feminism. I am a feminist, because I think that all people are equal, not just men, woman, non-conforming, just everyone is equal. I do think it’s cool to be a feminist. But, I am not a feminist, because I think it’s what I should be. I am a feminist, because it’s what I am.  And I think that’s one of our biggest problems. We do things because we think we should do them or we have to do them or we want to be part of something much bigger than ourselves. We need to know and be informed more. That falls on us.
S: How do you feel like your work reflects and affects?
B: I feel like it’s the little things that we’re all doing… Like yesterday, we had a voter registration table where we compared the platforms of the candidates with no bias. We brought up ten issues that are relevant to millennials. We showed what their actual stances were on issues. People kept saying, “I had no idea.” You look at the bad of one thing and say to yourself, “Oh, I would never do that one thing.” Or you look at the one good thing and say, “I would always do this for everyone.” Instead of weighing. There is more than one layer of a movement, a person, or anything. I feel like informing is a way of my starting a conversation. I’m also having conversations with people who wouldn’t typically have conversations. The biggest thing is showing that support and I feel like by doing that lets me inform myself, but informing ourselves together is so much more important for the impact on how the stand of things are. It might not make an impact on anything though.
S: Actions do speak louder than words.
B: That too. Yeah, definitely that too.
S: Within the LGBTQ community, the Union specifically, what are some things people have come to talk to you about that are relevant to this generations problems, or this community’s oppression?
B: We don’t see people like us in power. It’s similar to the Black Lives Matter movement. That’s huge. But, you see that. You see where that’s a problem. We had the Orlando shooting. It’s like, “Oh, we’ll do a tribute. It sucks. A bunch of gay people died.” I’m not trying to make it equivalent, but more so saying where is our leader? Not saying we don’t have one, but you don’t see them as often. It’s like you hear them say, “Oh, we’ll make LGBTQ people equal.” Cool. You can say that until you’re blue in the face, but what’s actually happening? You strike down a bill that’s horrendous. Cool. Are you putting in a bill that’s going to protect us? We’re getting the, “Hey, we’re with you, but when shit actually goes down, we don’t want to get involved.” I feel like that’s in all oppressed communities. But the big thing is that we had a tragedy. We’ve had multiple tragedies. What’s changing? You’re going to put up a monument? That doesn’t do anything. It’s important, but it doesn’t do anything. You shot down a bill. That’s important. But, we need more. You don’t need the pill you can swallow. You have to challenge that. We were given our pill and it wasn’t a choice, ya know? I’m sorry but not sorry that my being and that my community, our community, needs to be reduced in size so you’re comfortable with it. What the fuck? Why am I having to dumb down and then just let it back in little by little so you’re comfortable with it? You think I’m comfortable with it? I’ve had to grow to be comfortable with this. You think I would choose this? I would really choose to do this? But, you’re choosing to listen? But, in the same sense, I know that’s what is needed and that’s how it works. It’s just so fucking frustrating. We’re sitting in class talking about a bunch of IAA. Cool. You only talk about the things that you’re okay with talking about. There is a complete spectrum of things that we need to be talking about. Baby steps? Fuck baby steps. My baby steps were imprinted with pink, because I was told that’s what my baby steps should be. And now my adult steps are black, because I’m walking on all the shit that you’ve thrown at us, ya know? Our biggest issue is kind of just why? Why? Why does this have to be reduced? Why does it have to be reduced so you can swallow it, when it was forced down our throats? That’s not fair. It wasn’t our choice, and I keep just asking why?
S: Like why do they keep doing what they’re doing? Why do they have that thought process?
B: Yes, why do I have to put it into micro doses so they can understand it. So they can handle it? Fuck that. How do you think I’m handling it? How do you think the kid who blew his brains out last week is handling it? How do you think the kid that is staring down the barrel of a gun is handling it? How do you think the kid who is being molested is handling it? 40% of the LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide. The people who can help us don’t need to handle it. They need to accept it and understand it more. It affects us. Even if you do nothing, don’t do anything to stop it progressing. It’s worse than not doing anything. It’s better to do nothing than to do something that is going to harm someone. Shut your mouth and sit.
S: Meaning they should listen more so with the intent to understand rather than the intent to respond.
B: When you educate someone over and over and over, it gets to the point of, “Fuck it. You Google what you want to Google, but shut up… Honestly.” If you’re not going to doing anything good, than shut up.
S: Exactly, you don’t understand the perspective of or how the individual feels personally who is looking down the barrel of that gun or how their parents feel.  It’s almost as if wondering to yourself, “If only they knew-“
*Motorcycle starts revving and we silently laugh until the motorcycle pulls out of the lot to rev one last time*
B: Like that guy, shut up!
S: He revved it at the wrong time, because what I wanted to ask was, “If only they knew..”, can you finish that sentence?
B: Oh, yeah. So, if only they [my community] knew, I hurt too. I go full force into this collaborative fight, but I might have cried two minutes before walking out that door. Like, I’ve almost committed suicide… twice. People don’t know that. I’m a person too. Their pain and my pain hurt me too. If only they knew that it is affecting me too. I’m not fighting for me. I’m fighting for us. It’s me too. Even to one or any community, I’m saying, “if only they knew I matter too,” like imagine if only they knew I’m struggling too. I’m crying to a counselor for an hour a week, because I carry the burden. But, I love that I carry it, because I would be empty if I didn’t have the fire that’s in me. The fire burns me every now and then, but I’d rather go through it than not have it.. because, it’s important.
S: I understand. You’d rather feel the pain than be numb to the issue. I don’t want to leave off on a bad note, so what are some future events that people can look forward to help impact this problem in a positive way. What’s the LGBTQ community doing soon?
B: Well, it’s LGBTQ history month. We have tons of events. We’re having dinner with Jessica Lynn. She came to campus last year and she is coming this year as well, but on the 11th. We’re doing a brown bag about huge people who contributed to the LGBTQ history movement on the last Thursday of the month in Folks. We’re going to present LGBTQ history and then have a trivia after and give everyone prizes. We’re working on an initiative that I can’t really talk about, but it’s going to be good. I know that’s vague, but it’s going to be good.
S: No, that’s fine. It’s like a tease hah. Isn’t there another event soon about coming out?
B: Yes. We’re doing a coming out door to be like, hey, this is what this is. We are definitely doing something to help celebrate National Coming Out Day on the 11th.
If you or a friend need someone to talk to, please contact our student counseling services here at MSU at (662) 325-2091.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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“If Only They Knew…”