Before Rocky Lucas had ever set foot in Pullman or had a clue what it meant to be a Coug, he was a fan of former Washington State University football great Drew Bledsoe.
It didn’t have as much to do with the rocket arm, accuracy, records, or the 90s playoff runs in the NFL, for Lucas, a 12-year-old boy staring through a TV in rural Kentucky, the New England quarterback was his first crush.
“He’s the first one I can remember,” said Lucas, now a licensed clinical social worker at WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
A new Coug, a self-proclaimed women’s basketball historian, and a faithful University of Kentucky wildcat, it would be difficult to find a bigger sports fan than Lucas on any WSU campus.
His friends will tell you, the only things he loves more than sports are spending time with others and making people laugh.
“I like stripping away the heaviness of life,” Lucas said. “I think that comes from the work that I do. I’ve become well-trained of that being a therapist and having clients going through heavy times on a regular basis.”
Struggling to approach his sexuality growing up, Lucas knows first-hand the benefits of his profession.
“Therapy helped me work through that process of why I couldn’t just keep my sexuality hidden, why I had to take ownership of that, and realize it is essential to be living who you are,” Lucas said.
For Lucas, it’s important to be open, not just for his own mental health, but for the young Cougs who were once like him.
“When I went to college, I encountered people who were completely out for the first time,” he said. “They didn’t care what you thought, they weren’t depressed. They were happy. Now, I want to show others they can be happy.”
Lucas quickly found his happy place on campus — WSU’s Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center (GIESORC), which recently re-opened for in-person services.
The center serves and supports LGBTQ+ — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer — students, faculty, and staff by providing resources, fostering community building, and relevant initiatives.
Lucas also serves as a mentor through and is membership coordinator of The President’s Commission on Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation.
It’s programs like these that helped sell him on WSU before he ever ventured to Pullman for his interview.
“A lot of students come from home environments where they weren’t fully accepted. They pretty much always have some sort of trauma, whether it be their family disowning them or childhood bullying,” Lucas said. “For me and for a lot of folks who for a long time had nowhere to turn, these environments created by universities are lifesaving.”
Lucas is no stranger to that trauma. He’s watched as friends who weren’t accepted by their families struggled to change their lifestyles, only to later commit suicide. Several members of Lucas’s own family haven’t talked to him since he came out publicly more than a decade ago.
Since moving to Pullman for work in January 2020, he hasn’t witnessed such discrimination, but to attain full equality, Lucas said a lot falls on straight allies.
“We’re up against thousands of years of people believing that being gay is undesirable,” Lucas said. “It’s unreasonable to think policies and outreach are going to immediately impact that.”
He said a true ally is one who believes in him, is willing to speak up when jokes are made, but let’s members of the LGBT community tell their stories without telling it for them.
“I would rather be uncomfortable sharing my stories than having someone speak for me,” he said. “It’s our stories and the stories of LGBT people that have brought us together and got us this far.”
Lucas said Pride month is all about sharing experiences
“Pride represents everything we’ve accomplished. At the same time, Pride represents what is still remaining — we aren’t done yet,” Lucas said. “Until we reach real equality, we need to continue putting ourselves front and center, so you have no choice but to hear our stories.”