When you’re a member of a sexual or gender minority, you don’t just come out once. The closet doesn’t disappear the first time you say, “I’m gay.” Coming out is a continual process: The closet is always there, and you get pushed back in among the dusty rainbow attire and cardboard boxes full of “Queer as Folk” VCR tapes every time you enter a new environment. You slump down among the stilettos and combat boots, sighing at your poster of Harvey Milk tacked to the inside of your door, and ask yourself, “Is it safe for these new people to know I’m not straight?”
The answer, of course, should be an unequivocal yes. But when you’re in a new setting, away from the safety of home for the first time in your life, it’s difficult to gauge how people will react to your queerness — especially in a place where almost everyone is straight and everything seems to be determined by said straightness. Social life is ruled by the ever-gendered Greek life culture, housing is segregated based on the parts in our pants, and finding a date is hard when 90 percent of the population shares in the straightness. If that were not enough, you still have the ever so slight — but ever present — portion of the College of William and Mary population that still calls us “homosexuals” during our diversity briefings, or uses “faggot” as loosely and familiarly as the term “bro.”
So how can one possibly come out of the closet? The closet is safe. It has all six seasons of “The L Word”! And you can just act straight until someone figures it out.
The problem with the closet is that it prevents people from seeing the realest you there is. And it’s terribly hidden — no one knows you are in there but you. So if you are struggling to come out to some friends on your freshman hall, or you are unsure where you fit in this community, I encourage you to reach out. Show up to Lambda Alliance. Join William & Larry. Visit the Center for Student Diversity. Or, simply talk to a friend. For the most part, the College is one of the most progressive university communities in the South. Sure, we are not exactly a Sarah Lawrence College or a UC Berkeley, but we’re not a Liberty University or a Brigham Young University either. We hover somewhere in the middle of progress in our humble abode on the middle of the east coast. After all, we love choosing the middle road at this school — not quite the fast lane — but just fast enough to look down at those slowly poking along to our right.
So, go ahead, push open the door. Dust yourself off. There’s a place for you here, too.
Email KJ Moran at [email protected]