I’ve heard UCU students say things such as “being queer is such a thing on this campus”, and “god, I feel like everyone is gay around here”. While I wish that were true (#gayagenda), a combination of visibly out queer individuals, an open environment of intelligent young people and, let’s be honest, our love of alcohol, does mean that a lot of students experiment with their sexuality – and some figure it out at some point during their three years here. Despite this, we should remember that this can be a really confusing and difficult time for many people and avoid trivialising that experience.
My coming out experience started in my second year, and was encouraged by a great deal of alcohol and a split-second decision made outside our lovely bar. Although I perhaps had suspicions earlier, my first same-sex crush took me completely by surprise. Interestingly enough, the fact that we have a lot of queer-identifying individuals on our campus didn’t make me feel more comfortable to explore my sexuality. I did not want to become the clichéd bisexual girl experimenting in college for fear of not being taken seriously. For a long time I refused to wear things that might make me look gay, such as flannels, beanies and Timberlands.
This internalized homophobia was probably the biggest barrier to accepting myself. I was afraid to perpetuate any of the stereotypes associated with LGBTQ individuals, for fear that they would change me. Even after I started coming out to people, I really struggled to identify with the queer community because I did not want to admit that I could be part of a minority group.
It is amazing how coming out on campus can be as simple as telling your friends you prefer the Dining Hall potato balls over the fries. However, I still do not really identify with the label bisexual, even though I find myself continually using it because it simplifies my sexuality for other people. It took me about a semester to identify with the term queer, as a unifying term for everyone in the LGBTQ community (basically anyone who doesn’t identify as straight).
“We should aim to create a social environment at UCU where being queer is not seen as a thing”
Whilst labels can help others understand your sexuality, they don’t always help you figure out who you are. Thus they need to be treated with care as they can put people in a box even more claustrophobic than the closet, which I personally wouldn’t want to return to. Therefore, it is important that we create a space where nobody feels pressured to label themselves. Discovering your attraction is a long and confusing process that does not necessarily ever end.
We should aim to create a social environment at UCU where being queer is not seen as a thing. Where being gay is neither the norm, nor the exception, but our sexual orientation is just a another small factor that makes us into individuals. We are well on our way to doing this, but there’s always room for improvement. To my fellow queers, we should be proud of the supporting and loving queer community we have on this campus, but simultaneously try to create an environment where being queer is never a reason to be exclusive. UCU is a uniquely accepting community that allows people who are even slightly questioning their sexuality to experiment in a comfortable environment and gives students the space to be the truest version of themselves, and we can be proud of this.
To all my beloved allies, give your peers the time and space to figure out who they are, but make sure they know you will be there to support them regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.