Revolutionary Tales: Demetrius Apostolis’ Pride is Full Speed Ahead

The rising senior, former SGA vice president and pilot in training is a member, advocate and ally of the LGBTQIA+ community at GW.

June 4, 2024

Demetrius Apostolis in Kogan Plaza

George Washington University rising senior Demetrius Apostolis remembers the first time he buckled into the pilot seat of a Cessna 172 cockpit, where he was moments away from pushing the throttle forward and commencing the takeoff process.

Apostolis has long been fascinated with aviation—he even runs his own plane spotting Instagram account. But even so, it’s naturally unnerving to be in control of a fixed-wing aircraft that hovers thousands of feet above the ground for the first time.

But the nerves settled as he ascended higher—under instructor supervision, of course—and farther away from his place of departure at Leesburg Executive Area. Soon, the entire capital region would come into view, making his lessons and leap of faith all worth it.

So much so that the history and criminal justice major, with assistance from GW Career Services, might just see how far piloting can take him.

“I've had that passion for many years; [it] started when I was little but didn't actually realize that I was going to pursue a career in it,” Apostolis said. “But recently, through GW, I've gotten a chance to modify my career path a little bit and sort of push that passion into my future career.”

While other leaps of faith have stayed on the ground only in a physical sense, that approach is exactly how Apostolis has lived his life as a GW student.

Coming from the small town of Farmington, N.J., Apostolis decided to go to school in the heart of Washington, D.C., the nation’s seventh largest metro region, and challenge himself among GW’s high-achieving and ambitious student body.

Shortly after he arrived, Apostolis decided to run for GW’s Student Government Association despite no student government experience in high school, rising from Columbian College of Arts and Sciences representative, senate chairperson pro tempore and accountability mechanism member to representing the student body as SGA vice president this past academic year.

And, after interacting with so many people of diverse cultures, backgrounds and all different walks of life at GW, Apostolis finally felt like he could live being his true self. For the first time in his life, Apostolis was comfortable expressing his own sexuality as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I had the opportunity to meet others who were able to not only encourage me to be confident in my sexuality and who I was as a person but also teach me different parts of the community that existed,” Apostolis said. “At GW, you should never fear who you are as a person.”

It’s been full speed ahead for Apostolis ever since.

He has used his platform in SGA and as a leader on campus to advocate for issues aimed at making sure all of GW is a safe community space, speaking with hundreds of student organizations around campus. He hasn’t been hard to find, as Apostolis can frequently be seen strolling the grounds of Foggy Bottom interacting with students of every background.

That was the case on the afternoon of April 10, as Apostolis and other campus leaders held Pride at GW Day in Kogan Plaza. There, they handed out merchandise, information pamphlets and even banned books while, most importantly, being faces those passing by could connect with, which was vital to Apostolis when he became more open about his sexuality.

Demetrius Apostolis in Kogan Plaza
It was important for student leaders such as Apostolis to hold Pride events during the school year , given that campus is quiet in June. Here he is on Pride at GW Day on April 10 in Kogan Plaza. (Cara Taylor/GW Today)

He and other leaders and allies in GW’s LGBTQIA+ community believe this visibility is especially important as legislation in various parts of the United States have restricted lessons about gender identity and sexuality in classrooms and prohibit practices meant to make LGBTQIA+ youth feel safe and supported at school.

“What we're seeing around the country is really scary—the fact that people can't come out on their own terms, the fact that people can't feel safe to express their identity and their sexuality,” Apostolis said. “As student leaders, we have been really intentional about creating a community where every student can have a voice and teaching students about the ways that they can advocate here on campus.”

While June is recognized as the official Pride Month, in recognition of the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in New York, widely considered to be the watershed event that transformed the gay liberation movement in the United States, it’s also a month where campus is quiet. The school year has ended, students are back home or off to summer jobs and internships.

Therefore, Apostolis and outgoing SGA president Arielle Geismar, among others, took it upon themselves to schedule Pride programming such as Pride at GW Day for the spring semester.

“As two queer leaders on campus, it’s really important for us to have events like this,” Geismar said on April 10 on Kogan Plaza. “Pride normally falls in June, so a lot of these celebrations are just missing [because of summer]. Having this event is so important for students, for young people, for everyone in the GW community and beyond, to have clear visibility and to know that young queer people are out here…and also that queer joy exists and is all around.”

Even though he is giving up his senior leadership role in SGA for his final academic year at GW, Apostolis will still make himself highly visible on campus and is always open for conversation. He encourages young people to use their voices and speak up if they want to create real change, even if it seems like a daunting task to do so.

His advice to incoming LGBTQIA+ students is to involve themselves in the different LGBTQIA+ organizations across campus. Apostolis says meeting other people and joining other student organizations can make a world of difference even for those who are just a little bit afraid or don’t want to put a label on their sexuality, as it did for him. In pilot’s terms, vocabulary Apostolis will soon know all too well, the clouds will clear once airborne.  

“I know it's scary. I've been there. I was scared to talk about my sexuality when coming to GW at first, but what I realized is people here don't judge you,” Apostolis said.” I would say, once you get past that initial hurdle, it'll be so much better because you'll get to live your life as your true self. It may be scary, but that second of uncomfort is going to be worth it.”