Coming into college I sincerely believed it would be a utopia of open minds and acceptance, and though people would have differing opinions everyone would be free to be themselves. I was kind of a naïve kid, and I quickly realized that my hopes simply weren’t the case.
I distinctly remember the second week of my freshman year. It was late, and a number of the people living on my hall were casually sitting in the common room, talking about life and our experiences and sharing our hearts as freshmen seem so eager to do. I wasn’t specifically trying to be in the closet, but I hadn’t mention it to these people, my own anxiety holding me back. “I knew a lesbian once. We were best friends. She came out to me in my room and I slept on the floor and didn’t talk to her again”, casually mentioned to the room. It felt like a knife was plunged into my chest. I’ll never forget what she said, a small comment from a person who’s grown so much, but it was enough to shake me back into reality.
Later, a guy on my hall outed me to a group of people, unaware of the damage he was doing. I was sick with anxiety for a week, horrified that I was no longer in control of my own story.
My sophomore year I met one of my closest friends, and she helped me to accept myself and start to be out on campus. Most people that were close to me knew at this point, and I was more self-assured and happy with who I am, yet I still witnessed casual homophobia from people who didn’t know, people who expected me to agree with them.
I was talking to a friend about the LGBT Equality Gala, and was met with a disdainful “Oh, you mean the Gayla. I don’t want to support their agenda”. He didn’t know I was gay, but I thought we were friends, that he was a decent guy with a gentle heart, and I think it really hurt me that it was such casual violence coming from someone close to me.
There’s a dissonance created by how I feel I present myself and what people can actually perceive. Being gay is such a huge part of who I am, but it’s invisible and often forgotten, and people’s casual homophobia, spoken to someone they believe is straight, stings like barbs.