To the Editor:
September wasn’t the best month for the queer community. Five young men, ranging in age from 13 to 19 years, committed suicide as a result of homophobic bullying. But no matter how many celebrities make PSAs about how terrible life is for LGBT youth, no matter how many people gasp in shock at the headlines, the reality is that anti-LGBT policies on both an institutional and an interpersonal level aren’t changing.
Whether it’s the United States Senate stalling passage of the planned repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or the College of William and Mary’s lack of protection for transgender and gender-diverse students in its non-discrimination clause, the society in which we live is one which is constantly telling queer youth that we don’t deserve the same rights and protections of the majority.
Whether it’s a college student broadcasting his roommate’s sexual encounters on the Internet or those far-too-prevalent anti-LGBT slurs that have had incredible staying power in our vernacular, that same message of non-inclusion is being broadcast not just to queer people as a community but to queer individuals every single day.
It’s not any different here at the College, however much we may like to think that we live in some bubble of safety. Political pressures from Richmond keep things like gender-neutral housing and protection from discrimination for transgender students out of official policy.
So to make the College, our temporary home for four years, a place where LGBT students can feel safe, happy and comfortable, change will have to come from individual students. It’s time to stop stigmatizing our campus’s queer community with slurs, and to erase “that’s gay” from our collective vocabulary. It’s time to grow up and realize, regardless of anyone’s personal beliefs on sexual orientation, that there are gay people on campus and that the LGBT community is just as diverse (racially, religiously, politically and otherwise) as the college population at large. For queer students on campus, there is an extra onus to live openly, to be role models and to form a welcoming community.
As an underclassman, I was far too ridden with anxiety about my own sexual orientation to come out. I didn’t see gay students on campus with whom I could identify. I thought that being out meant fitting in with some stereotypical mold that had been shoved down my throat since my early teens, and I didn’t know where or if there was a place for me in what seemed to me like a narrowly defined community here at the College.
With National Coming Out Day on October 11, LGBT students at the College have a beautiful opportunity to come back from Fall Break and show the true diversity and plurality that is our queer community. We can show students as anxious I was that there is space in our community for every kind of person — from the frat guys to the women’s studies majors, from the softball team to the gospel choir — because real equality starts and ends with each of us.