After years of individuals discriminating against me for identifying as queer, it felt refreshing to hear that in college I would finally be surrounded by individuals who will understand and accept me for who I am. Sadly, after coming to Bates College, I realized that was far from the truth. Instead of being embraced with words of affirmation, I was met with disgusted faces and annoying remarks. For a school that prides itself on diversity and inclusion and for students who consider themselves to be “social justice warriors”, I constantly see queerness being criticized in both academic and social settings.
When it comes to academics, I always find that most of the departments here at Bates manage to incorporate race and gender into their courses—which is a great thing. However, what I don’t see is queerness also being held to that same standard. In my opinion, the only time you really delve deep into the queer identity is if you take course within or cross-listed with the Gender and Sexuality Department. And those courses are occupied by predominantly white women. So, my question is: where are the men? How come so many men consider themselves to be allies, yet refuse to take those courses, so that they can understand the experience of a queer individual? And outside of that question: why as an institution don’t we put pressure on students to take courses that explore identity, so that students can go outside of their comfort zone and learn about issues that their peers face on a daily basis? Or why, as an institution, don’t we celebrate holidays that pertain to the queer and trans identities?
I know what you’re thinking: people can support queer students without having to get involved? But that’s part of the problem! You cannot call yourself an ally without doing any of the work it takes to be an ally. In order to be a true ally, you have to actively go out and visibly show your support. You have to correct people whenever you find something they say is considered a microaggression. You have to dismantle your own perceived notions about sexuality and fluidity. Because if you don’t, you are still reinforcing the problems that relate to the heteronormative society that we live in today. The problem is queer people are not visible. Queer couples are not celebrated in the same way heterosexual couples are. Queer individuals are still violently targeted. These are issues that need to be reiterated to everyone who considers themselves to be “for the cause” in an educational setting. And this way, student can use that education and apply it to their own lives because it’s been too many times that I’ve heard Bates students use homophobic rhetoric against me or another queer person. Throughout my time at Bates, I’ve been judged for listening to “twerking music” because it’s deemed as “too feminine.” Or I been accused for having a crush on a guy just because I said “hi” or gave him a compliment, as if saying “I like your shirt” is equal to “I’m sexually attracted to you.” I am always surprised to see students who considering themselves to be open-minded, so polarized when talking about how a female-identifying person should act vs a male-identifying person. And whenever a person acts outside of those socially constructed behaviors, someone has to “remind them” of the role they have to play, like how students have done with me. Students have tried to remind me that I have to “maintain my manhood” by trying to stop me from dancing and showing affection. But, I am very comfortable in my sexuality and you should be too. We as a community need to stop trying to silence those who are different and make them question who they are. We should instead embrace them and show them their importance.