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When I chose to serve in AmeriCorps NCCC as an out LGBT individual, it was a way for me to Be Fearless and “Reach Beyond My Bubble.” I served between January 2004 and December 2005 in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) at the Atlantic Region in Perry Point, MD. I was 22 years old when I started my service and I had been openly gay since I was 16 years old. I had a desire to serve my country that was central to my being; yet, I also had a fear that I would not be accepted for who I was beyond my sexuality.

I was afraid of how the staff and fellow AmeriCorps members would treat me or how well I would integrate into NCCC culture. I knew that communities I would travel to would be different and far away from my own. Needless to say, I had a lot of anxiety around this decision; however, my desire to serve was even greater than those anxieties so I packed up my bags and left for Maryland. It was a chance to leave my comfort zone and to be fearless in this new service opportunity.

I can honestly say it was an amazing and transformative experience, which isn’t to say it was without its challenges. While my fears were understandable, they never came to fruition. Because of reaching beyond my bubble I now know people that I am deeply connected to and are some of my best friends. One in particular never had known a gay person before he met me. I helped him change his opinion on LGBT people and I did so just by being myself. The staff always treated me with respect and dignity and many have become long-time trusted advisors and mentors.

There were times I did face certain bias and judgments, as did many other members of AmeriCorps. However, we always came together during those challenging times to support each other. I now respect that experience as part of the process of understanding. In fact, I would argue that service helped us to find that common ground to collaborate with one another. I was able to engage in conversations that I would never have if I weren’t serving alongside people with opinions different from my own.

I hope that many more individuals who come from different backgrounds and identities can have the opportunity to serve in programs like AmeriCorps where they will break out of the comfort zone and have the chance to work alongside others who different from them. The differences that initially scared me ended up providing teachable moments and enriching dialogues between members of our team. I am absolutely sure we were a better team because we were so different and could interact effectively with the diverse group of people we provided service to. I am grateful for the opportunity AmeriCorps provided me and these lessons helped me to continue serving now as an AmeriCorps Alums.

Chad Jeremy Davis is from San Diego and has traveled all over the United States in service to communities. He currently resides in San Francisco, CA. For another perspective on LGBT service in AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, check out the 2009 Idealist podcast Chad participated in here.

This is the fifth in a series of blogs we'll feature from City Year and AmeriCorps alumni about their journeys to Be Fearless through service. Read the first, second, and third, and fourth posts.

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