One of the hardest things a new student can face is finding the niche where they belong. I remember it being my biggest apprehension as an incoming freshman exactly three years ago. As a queer person, it was even more difficult — I didn’t know how to get connected with the queer community on campus or even advocate for myself as a queer student. With COVID-19 restrictions at the College of William and Mary being put back into place because of vaccination rates and rising cases, options and opportunities to figure out these things may not be as accessible.
Entering college is chaotic enough, especially with the added demands and stress of maintaining physical and mental health during the pandemic. For many queer students, college is also the first real opportunity to be an out adult, with all the wonderful and terrible experiences that go with it. As the College’s environment is typically different from their hometowns, queer students can have a chance to come out without having to do anything other than be themselves and start anew.
Things are always easier said than done, however, and being queer in the academic realm is no easy feat. Resources for queer students are discussed rather scantily during orientation and beyond. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, campus policies surrounding preferred versus legal name are less than ideal, as well as gender marker changes. Administration still has a long way to go in terms of proper advocacy and equity for their queer student population, as well as marginalized students in general. Incoming students who are concerned with these topics should be aware that queer rights are imperfect on public college campuses, as they are imperfect in the larger social and governmental structure.
Although queer resources aren’t a major focus of the college’s first-year experience, they do indeed exist. The Center for Student Diversity offers inclusive programs and options for diverse students and is an ally of the LGBTQ+ student community. One of my favorite resources that they have in place is the Trans Locker, which is open to all Gender Non-Conforming students who wish to utilize it. Through the Trans Locker, I received my first full binder, as well as the essential health and safety information that all queer people using binders should be aware of.
For students looking to get connected socially, there are multiple groups across the College network that are comprised of queer members. Rainbow Coalition is the main queer social group on campus, meant to educate and inspire queer activism through a variety of events and programs. Lambda Alliance is another great option for new LGBTQ+ students, as they have smaller events centered around queer peer support and fun. Of course, queer people exist outside of LGBTQ+ centered spaces, and keeping an open mind to all positive social connections is key to queering college life.
Dean Thomas ’22 currently oversees the Center for Student Diversity’s Trans Locker and discussed how queer students shouldn’t be afraid to reach out and utilize resources that are meant to help them succeed.
Connecting with others is another huge focus for the queer college experience, one that Thomas and I can wholeheartedly agree upon.
“I didn’t have many queer friends growing up, but coming to William & Mary allowed me that opportunity and I am glad it did,” Thomas said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to other queer students on campus, it could mean a huge difference in community.”
Elaine Godwin ’22 is an English and Data Science double major. As a queer person, she has a unique view on the world and is dedicated to inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. Email Elaine at firstname.lastname@example.org.