Student Profile: Living in the “Gray Area” of Student Identity

Erica Santiago/News Director

Noel Cerulean is a student living in a “gray area” of multiple identities.

Cerulean, a senior majoring in nutrition and dietetics, is a first-generation Cuban-American who also identifies as non-binary and asexual; the former describes someone who identifies as neither male nor female, and the latter describing someone who does not experience sexual attraction.

“[I’m] a mesh of everything, so at the same time I’m not anything,” said Cerulean, who uses they/them pronouns.

However, there is one aspect of their identity they consider to be the most important.

“The biggest aspect of my identity … is my identity as an activist who fights for causes that are important to me and who fights to make the world a better place for everyone, so that people don’t have to feel like they have to fit in to be someone who matters,” they said.

Fitting within certain spaces, particularly Cuban, has been difficult for Cerulean.

“My family is really Cuban. I go to all the family events, and I hear them speaking super Cuban Spanish … about Cuba,” they said. “But I can’t relate so much to that because I’m not from Cuba.”

However, Cerulean doesn’t identify fully with “American” either.

In the States, Cerulean says his family is often discriminated against when speaking Spanish in public.

“I went to Coco Beach [with my family] and my grandma was speaking Spanish to us, and the family next to us started speaking ‘mock-Spanish’ — making fun of us,” they said.

Along with being pressured to identify as either Cuban, American or both, Cerulean also feels pressured to conform to gender roles.

“I don’t really identify with being a man, but if I want to put my foot through the door to some places, and I deviate from male, I’m not going to get that opportunity,” they said.

Though Cerulean prefers “they” or “them” pronouns, they often hesitate to tell others their preferred pronouns.

“If someone asks, I’ll say [my preferred pronouns],” they said. “Because if they’re asking then they’re probably aware, but otherwise I never say it because I know the backlash I’ll get.”

It’s been through Cerulean’s activism and involvement with groups like the Students for Justice for Palestine that they have found their niche and people who accept them for who they are.

“I feel really comfortable with SJP because I know that I can just be myself,” they said.

They also feel at home with the friends they made in student housing.

“We understand each other on a deeper level, our friendship is personal,” said Cerulean. “It’s about getting to know each other.”

When asked how to best connect with people at the intersection of many identities, Cerulean says the answer lies in listening.

“Listen to the people you are standing in solidarity with. Take what they’re saying about themselves [and] what you’re doing as an ally, and listen to what they’re saying,” they said.

Allies can also use their privilege to help other communities, according to Cerulean.

“For example, if you’re white and you’re trying to help Black Lives Matter, you speak to other white people. Get other white people on board with Black Lives Matter,” they said. “Amplify and don’t speak over. Speak to the ones who aren’t listening.”

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