College Lesbianage Class of 2016: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts

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Hello and welcome to another edition of Autostraddle’s College Lesbianage: a glimpse of college life through the wide eyes of six freshly fallen snowflake first-year queers. This month’s update finds our Lesbianagelings settling into their respective establishments of higher learning, where cute girls mill around campuses being cute and rugby teams practically fall into people’s laps. Also, it becomes increasingly clear that writing for Autostraddle while attending a university is basically a one-way ticket to Getting Luckyville. Glad we could help, girls.

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Nita

The University of North Carolina Greensboro

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This column was due yesterday and I’m supposed to be studying for a sign language test. As it stands, I went to the local Pride fest instead and no studying has been accomplished whatsoever. Oi.

My first month of college has just been a mass of experiences and emotions. Let’s start with Campus Ministries. I’ve joined the Wesley-Luther group on campus (Methodist and Lutheran) and I feel so at home here. Hanging next to the Methodist flag in the common room, there’s a big-ass rainbow flag and a sign on the wall that says “Safe Zone.” They have an LGBTQ Bible study, not to mention some really kickass homecooked meals Monday nights. The atmosphere of the group is nothing but inclusive and accepting, and I’m absolutely in love with it.

After acing my first exam, I’ve decided that sign language is definitely the right major for me. I just feel really comfortable being involved in the local Deaf community—for me, talking with my hands feels much more natural than using my voice.

Being away from the town I grew up in and going from a graduating class of 64 people to a whole student body of 18,000 is more terrifying than I thought it’d be. But as the weeks have gone by I’ve called my parents less and less and kept the tears at bay, at least for a bit. Rachel and I are dealing with the separation pretty well—I went home for Labor Day weekend and we watched Doctor Who together. Skype and text messages have been our best friends, as well as handwritten letters. I’ve found a store near campus that sells the most awesome stationery and postcards, so my girlfriend has now become my pen pal. It’s a good feeling to go to my campus mailbox and find a letter, and it’s definitely making the separation easier.

The most disappointing thing about the past month has actually been the Pride group on campus (not to be confused with the Pride Festival). Our tiny group is trying to rebuild its image from the “dark days of Pride,” where apparently its members had a reputation for being a little too friendly. Things are getting better though — the first meeting I went to was “Memoirs from the Closet,” where people shared their coming out stories, and the whole experience was a great way to meet and connect with other queers.

Speaking of Pride—the festival now, not the group — my first one was last Saturday and I went with my queer-best-friend Ava. Ladies, if you’ve never been to a Pride Festival, you have got to go.

We got a shit ton of rainbow stickers, bracelets, pamphlets for my girlfriend’s homophobic mother, and what-have-you. I wore a “Legalize Gay” shirt downtown and it was the best feeling ever. Walking around with a shirt and an alternative-lifestyle haircut that proudly proclaims your sexuality and realizing that absolutely no one gives a shit whatsoever is so liberating.

Pride weekend was the first time I’ve ever felt that comfortable being myself. For me, that’s what coming here was all about. So it’s been a little rough, but somehow, I think I’m going to manage.

 

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Sunny

Ithaca College

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I hate to admit it, but on the first day I arrived in Ithaca College, I sat on the floor in silence for half an hour, hugging my knees as my eyes welled up with tears. Here is a photo of me on that day (on the desk are two Chelsea Handler books I bought to cheer myself up):

I’d taken a peek into the dining hall and realized that I was actually alone. There were people sitting in groups and enjoying themselves, and I couldn’t see myself be a part of it. That was when I decided to grab a bar of Rice Krispies and head back to my cave. I was in a glass case of emotions. Little did I know that things would be significantly changed within a few hours.

International students were given a week to get used to things prior to the official move-in day for American students. One of my favorite moments of this first week of international bonding was when I took a car ride about 30 miles out of Ithaca with three sophomore guys. We stood on this empty road in silence and looked at the stars at 1 AM. I realized then that I had perfect fun being a spontaneous goofball, and going along with whatever there was to do. This was, in fact, my first memorable experience as a college freshman. I wish my phone was able to take a photo of the sky at that moment. It couldn’t, so this is the only evidence of it; us standing in the darkness.

Let me assure you, you will never be able to predict how a day will turn out when you’re in college, unless you purposely restrict yourself from doing activities. As of now, I still surprise myself with things I end up doing. This leads me to the story of my gayest night out yet.

Sarah — one of my two darling gay angels I met via Autostraddle who are seniors at Ithaca and have guided me to all sorts of goings-on — suggested that I go to a pub where her bestie was playing and there would be many gay girls. I went, of course, even though I was ready for the night to turn out horribly because I’d gone alone (a definite no-no at night) and I was the only freshman there. But it was superb and I had a fantastic time adoring gay couples dancing to Ingrid Michaelson’s “You and I”. I had the best time just talking and hanging out with Amanda — my second gay angel — and I’m confident that I had twice as much fun than the drinking peeps roaming around that night.

Things have been crazy but I love it. I’m involved with the Women’s Rugby club, two LGBTQ clubs, and a fashion club. I have classes all over the place, ranging from 9 in the morning to 10 at night. Ithaca College and the city are stellar and I promise to go into detail about how wonderful the environment is next time. Here’s me walking down the hill to class. I love how refreshing the mornings are when I walk past the greenery! Cheers.

 

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Kate

Wellesley College

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Okay can I just start this off by saying HOLY SHIT SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE READ THE ARTICLE. I feel like a minor celesbian (is that a term I’m allowed to use?) [Ed. note: no!] here on campus. I hear some variation of “Wait…are you the Autostraddle girl?” every day.

Every. Single. Day.

Understandably, this has made me really start to think about the internet and how the entire world can read this if they want, and I feel super proud and also kind of scared about that. So we might read less about my sex life on here, because probably no one wants to be on the internet as “that chick who slept with the Autostraddle writer” (or maybe you do, I don’t know).

Actually, everything’s been awesome here. My classes are wonderful, I’m not too stressed out yet, and I’m starting to get really settled in here. I got one job as an art model and I’m waiting to hear about another – a desk job for the LGBTQ Programs Office. My roommate is lovely, I’ve been making friends, and I even found someone to cuddle with and watch Obama’s speech.

Me in front of the chapel on Flower Sunday, one of Wellesley’s lovely
traditions.

Only two things have been less than awesome in the past two weeks. The first is that I dramatically overestimated my own abilities and signed up for Ballet II. I’m staying in the class, but I’m doing a lot of catch-up work to get to a Ballet II level. The second was my first adventure on the campus shuttle bus where I ended up taking the wrong bus, then missing the last bus home and standing in the rain for an hour late at night before giving up and taking a cab home. But even that was fine. I’m happy to be taking ballet and I’m learning how the transportation system works, and I got to hang out with a friend in Boston which made the rain totally worth it.

That stuff everybody says about college – it’s true. My mother used to tell me, “Honey, when you go to college, everyone there will be like you. You won’t feel so lonely.” I never believed her, but I sure do now. My roommate and I decided to take turns reading our favorite poems to each other last night, just because we felt like it. I’ve been in classes with people who can effectively discuss the patriarchy and iambic pentameter, who play rugby and can explain every step of nuclear fission. And I’m finding that the more time I spend here, the better I learn. Like being in an environment of people who love to learn is making me a better learner and a better student. Knowledge is just flying through the clear Massachusetts air.

On top of all that, it’s gorgeous here. I look at my roommate every day and say something like “can you believe we’re here?” It honest to goodness looks like Hogwarts here, lots of buildings have high gothic windows and towers and one of the dining halls has these round iron chandeliers. There are trees everywhere and the air is still and quiet and I feel so safe here.

It really is a thing, being at a women’s college. I came here super confident in my sexuality and in my identity as a woman and a feminist, and I didn’t think I would feel any different here than anywhere else- but there’s something so empowering about being with mostly women. I don’t understand what it is, but it’s there. Maybe it’s in the fact that when we sing, it’s all high voices. Or when I’m in my Art History class, one of the first things the whole lecture hall notices is that the cylinder seal of Queen Puabi portrays a woman as the central figure. Maybe it’s that for the first time in my entire life, I haven’t heard a rape joke or a gay joke or a sexist comment in two whole weeks. It just makes such a difference. I love it here.

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Next: Kelsey, Lillian & Claire

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68 Comments

  1. Thumb up 2

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    October is “Queer Awareness Month” at my college and it is definitely one of the most fantastic and accepting experiences I’ve ever had. I’d love to write something up about QAM, what we do and how our campus environment is with regards to lesbianism and homosexuality.

    It’s always interesting hearing how other lovely ladies feel on their own respective campuses since everyone’s experiences are so different!

    Advocate. Love.

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        that was a brilliant idea. in college i had a blog called “photobooth truths.” it has nothing to do with photobooth strips and everything to do with me liking the death cab for cutie song “photobooth.” but anyway, back to you and your brilliance — you guys are brilliant and adorable and i’m so glad you’re enjoying college so far! <3

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        I’m from a rugby crazy country and even though I just love watching the big test matches and know all the rules, I just don’t get why sane people would want to play it??? Sure all that groping in the scrum must be all sorts of lovely, but cauliflower ears?? the very real risk of actually breaking your neck??? Explain please…

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          I do agree with you to an extent! I don’t think I would ever want to really play it long-term or even competitively (because I bruise more easily than fruit and pass out when I break bones), but it still looks like a lot of fun and I think I’d love to play in an intramural or similar environment where I could learn to play, and play more for fun than to win/pulverize. Also, I basically want to try every sport I see at least once.

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          The only reason to not play rugby is that you are eventually going to get an injury. I escaped w nothing more than massive bruises, but only played 3 years.
          #1 you get to break bones and crack skullz
          #2 the forwards do the really hard work, scrumming, get ear damage
          #3 be a (running) back like me. be in the right place at right time, run fast, score the points, and have the hottest girls from the opposing team trying to tackle you.
          #4 your team might go to the albuquerque tounament. club and college teams. even the air force has a girl’s side, they have their own coach travel bus with “air force zoomies” painted on it. 20 teams maybe?
          Best reason: after the tournament, there is pub crawl, meet girls and sing drunk rugby songs. Some situations, you might exchange team shirts with a special girl from another team :)

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      So glad to see ‘em picking up RUGBY! As a player of 9 years, I can’t tell you just how wonderful our sport and community is. It can be challenging to learn when you’ve grown up in American Football Land, but it is truly a fantastic game.

      (In my years I’ve played for Union College, Smith College, Springfield Women’s, the Atlanta Harlequins, the Berkeley All-Blues, St Luis Obispo’s Pirate Beaches, and Trinity College Dublin)

      As for the concerns about injury, please know that injuries are most common for new players and poorly officiated games and practices. Learning to safely give and take tackles is crucial. Make sure your team is being run by a proper coach with certification from a recognized rugby body. If not, go to your student council or get in touch with your territorial union or even USA Rugby directly. As well, remind yourself and your teammates that playing through injury is stupid and your body and future deserve better. And if you need inspiration for gorgeous, well-played rugby, go to Wendy Young’s ScrumhalfConnection.com for US Women’s Rugby coverage or Alison Donnelly’s ScrumQueens.com for International Women’s Rugby coverage.

      Now, ruggers, is everybody happy? ;-)

  2. Thumb up 2

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    I’ve been freaking out a little bit about moving out and starting uni next week and beginning a whole new life and not knowing anyone and being over a hundred miles away from my cat. AAAHHHH! This piece doesn’t do much for my cat-based worries, but it’s helped with pretty much everything else- thank you lesbianagers! Looks like the first thing I’ll be doing is signing up for rugby :D

    One question- How do you pronounce the term ‘lesbianage’? In my mind, it’s similar to ‘espionage’ but it recently occurred that maybe it’s supposed to be more like ‘cabbage’.

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    Reading these posts makes me wish that I had made better choices when I went to undergrad. I met amazing people and went through a lot of shit during my undergrad but I wish I would have taken the time to apply to a place that would fit me. Looking back, I can’t see why I wanted to go to the undergrad I did. I certainly don’t regret it, as much as I wonder what it would have been like if I took a path like these girls.

    As it is, I’m bound and determined that my continued foray into higher-education can be both beneficial to my research and to my desire for community. “Supported and not just tolerated” really struck a cord with me.

    Anyway, I’m glad all these ladies are having such a wonderful time and I can’t wait to read more about their experiences (as I sit, unemployed and graduated, starting at my personal statement with mounting angst).

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      If it’s any consolation, I didn’t do any of the sorts of things discussed here when I was in college. I just went to my classes and then home (I lived in the dorms my first year, but since I didn’t go very far, lived at my parents’ house after that).

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      Awww Lillian your story about finding a girl is so cute!! It shows how the pieces can fall in the right places when ‘you do you’

      I never was out and proud at university, so reading all these stories is just so heartwarming. It’s inspiring that these students have embraced themselves wholeheartedly, and look at how awesome their first couple weeks have been already!

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      I was just thinking that. I definitely got a lot of good things out of my college but it sounds like there are so many places that would have been a better fit. I went to a tiny liberal arts college so we didn’t have all of these clubs or events or even jobs, and it’s easy to think that you’ve missed out. Ah well, we make the best of it.

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        See, I went to University of Colorado at Boulder. MASSIVE and PARTIES and TERRIBLE DECISIONS WHILST DRUNK. And we had clubs and events and jobs but we were tolerated and not embraced. I wish I would have been more educated about the choices when I was 18 and perhaps had more parental support.

        We shall make the best of it. We’re still awesome.

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        I went to University of Colorado at Boulder. So, pretty identical to your experience (probably). Instead of people being outwardly intolerant, they were secretly intolerant! They constantly boasted about how liberal and fabulous their views were but they were ignorant and horrible. Also, insanely rich. CEO daughters of massive companies and sports-team owners went to my school, which meant living with beautiful but very fake people. I met people but I just wonder if I had taken the time to make a decision that would fit me, instead of PRETENDING TO BE STRAIGHT EMILY then where would that have led me?

        So yeah, painful to read at times but I’m still very proud of these girls for making good decisions and embracing the area and opportunities of freshman year.

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    you guys are all so well-adjusted! i was a wreck and cried a lot and hated everybody and i don’t think ever found a place to fit in at either university i attended. i wonder if being out and involved in queer stuff would’ve made the difference

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    I am so fortunate to read this article as when i went to college 1986, there were no gay.lesbian groups—-just softball meetings!Wondering if there are any Connecticut Colleges with GLBT groups on facebook? I host events in New Haven, CT and wanted to get the girls to come out to our monthly SunGAY T event @ Terminal 110 in New Haven!
    peace love and kisses to all the freshwomen!
    ilene

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    Aw! I’m loving all the little ruggers in this group! I really wish I had started my freshmen year like you girls. I definitely see some forwards representing, although I bet Ms. Kate is a swift back. Let me guess, inside center? :D Have fun girls! Run straight, ruck hard!

  7. Thumb up 1

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    It’s odd and awesome to see an IC student writing for this column, because I went there for two years before transferring out. Anyway, Sunny, I’m guessing you live in Terraces? I lived in West Tower both years because I always thought that the Terraces were too far away from the academic buildings, haha. I’m glad things have improved for you!

    Lillian, that’s so cute about your girlfriend! Made me smile to read about you.

    Claire, love your style. You look great.

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    Hey, great articles! One thing though, the “University of North Carolina” typically refers to the campus in Chapel Hill, the main one. It seems from the picture that Nita goes to University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). It seems nitpicky but as there are several different UNC campuses it’s kind of important to be specific. The atmosphere for queer people at UNCG might be wildly different than that at UNCW, UNCA, UNCP, UNCC, or just plain old UNC (Chapel Hill).

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    Oh my God, this makes me so nostalgic for my freshman year, joining Haven (my college’s LGBTQ group) and going to my first women’s studies class. LOVE LOVE LOVE THE TARDIS POSTER!!! Yay for fellow Whovians! Nita, I totally know how those UCNG Pride kids feel, trying to pick their group out of the “dark days.” That’s what Haven was like when I first joined, but they were trying to do the same thing. They were able to turn their image around in three years with a lot of hardwork, but they’re doing amazing things now! =D

    Good luck everyone!!!! You’re all going to have an amazing time

  10. Thumb up 3

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    Aw, love love love this. All of this.
    It’s great to hear about a super queer-friendly campus ministry, Nita! During my time at UT Austin, I was involved in the Wesley Foundation which, while near and dear to my heart, was not prone to celebrate or foster LGBT peeps.

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    NITA YOU MAKE UP ENTIRELY FOR NONE OF YOU BEING IN CHICAGO
    But seriously, I’m deaf and it just kinda helps when I see hearing people do deaf-related stuff. So much love for you. I want to hear more about what you do and how it goes!

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    It’s so cute reading all these “yay I’m a freshman in college!!!” stories. Ah, yes. Freshman year was nice… Just wait until sophomore year. Then you’ll be spending your day lying in bed with a concussion, trying not to vomit while reading.

    (The cynicism is from a lack of meds at this point… or it’s just because my moods are having their own party.)

    Enjoy the luxury of the first month of college.

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    Arghhh. I’m a high school senior and reading these makes me wish i could afford to go away when i graduate–now i’m stuck in my home town for at least the first two years college and pretty much feel forever alone :/ oh well.

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    Omg you guys are so fucking great. A big smile slapped me right across the face at the very beginning of this article and hasn’t left yet!

    My only piece of advice, if I’m allowed to dole out advice anyway, is that you must- must- always remember that the good times at college are going to be very good. And then at the same time, the bad times are going to be very bad. But you are queer, and you will persevere, and I do not care how terrible that sounds and that IT EVEN RHYMES, because unfortunately I left all of my fucks at home.

    What I’m saying is that you will continue to meet beautiful, important people, and you will continue to find activities that surprise, elate, and fulfill you, and then if (when?) doom knocks on your door, you have to remember that everything is going to be very, very ok. Doom in this case may be failing a test, failing a CLASS, not getting that great job everyone is telling you that you deserve, seeing an end to beautiful relationship, etc. You already know this, but I’m here to reinforce it. Be confident in your abilities and know that it is up to you to find out what’s truly important to you, and that may take all four years, (or five, or six.)

    Anyway, even though I have much more to say on this subject, I’ve gotta go too. It turns out I have my whole day already unfolding before me and I haven’t even started reading for my 2:30 class yet, because it turns out I’m still in college too! I fooled you all, I’m not some ancient wisewoman living atop a mountain, like you thought! But I do have some good things to say. And I’ve thought about this a lot. And the best thing you can do is just to actively work to BE OK. In The Art of Getting By, (which wasn’t the BEST movie ever, but hey that’s beside the point), there was this gem, and I just have to quote it here as an effective conclusion to my happy-rant:

    “Happiness is something you have to look after, be vigilant about.” This has always been true for me, not in the way that I believe success and happiness are essentially the same things, but in the way that you always need to remind yourself that happiness is within reach if you quit waiting for it. You have to vigilant in the way that you can’t lose your peace of mind. Even if your girlfriend cheated on you and tries to justify it by claiming a polyamorous orientation, or your professor gave you a D on that project you worked for weeks on. Even if facebook changes their layout and you stare at your screen for ten minutes filled with nothing but contempt, wondering if you should post a passive-aggressive status about it. Even if your pet back at home passes away, and you find yourself bawling in your dorm room or your shitty off-campus apartment. Even if you find yourself basing your happiness off the approval of others and realizing it one day as you go leaps and bounds ahead of yourself in an attempt to impress someone. All of this will pass. And only then, when you really know that it has passed for sure, then the real work can begin.

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    aww this is so adorable. i haven’t made any gay friends at my school yet and it’s kinda really frustrating, I guess i’ll just have to live through all of your lives for now…. haha

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