College Lesbianage Class of 2016: Starting To Feel Like Home

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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.


Ithaca College

Where do I begin? I’ve lost track of time and things are progressively getting gayer every day. From the incredibly cool girl in my photography class to the cute librarian who helped me find “Chekhov: The Four Major Plays,” I’ve been bumping into a whole lotta gay. As one of my friends here told me, “you can assume someone is gay until they correct you otherwise.”

Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve been getting my foot in the door to a lot of LGBT-related activities. The LGBT Education, Outreach and Services here is prolific with events, including one I attended called Chocolate in the Chapel. It was literally a chocolate buffet in the school’s chapel.

Last week, I was on the school’s new online radio show called Lesbihonest; it consists of two hosts talking about lesbian, identity and sexual issues in general. I went and talked about my coming out story and I felt a ridiculous happy-high realizing how open and accepting everything here is. I was in a room with the hosts who were squealing about me telling an audience how my best friend and I came out to each other over ice-cream. It was — simply put — heartwarming.

In other news, I got my head properly shaved for the first time ever. I didn’t shave my whole head, just the sides and back; the closest thing I can name it as is a “half-shaved pompadour.” Here’s a before (me and the sophomore who shaved my hair in the girls’ bathroom) and after shot:

After the cut, I had to run to my first fashion club meeting. It isn’t a big deal to anyone else, but I’m head-over-heels merry to be an out lesbian on the writing and photography team for the club, seeing as people tend to identify fashion with fierce, straight women and fabulous gay men. I had to go through an interview where the club executives sat across from me at one end of an oval table, drilling me with questions like, “What caught your eye in New York’s Fashion Week Spring 2013?” I walked in with a black vest, a cream blazer and a grey scarf, feeling happier with how I looked rather than getting anxious about the interview. I think that the confidence I’ve gathered to be a part of this club shows just how willing I am to be a part of things I’ve always wanted to try but was too afraid of before. I would not have had the guts to join a fashion club in high school, much less admit that I liked being a tomboy who was interested in fashion.

I have no problem with treating the weekdays like weekends, always finding excuses to procrastinate (and here I am cramming 100 pages worth of reading for my midterm). I’ve kept my free time busy, doing things like watching a marathon of The L Word, going to my first roller derby game, hanging out with some sweet and goofy queer upperclassmen and eating at the first American diner I’ve ever been to (not kidding).

As for the upcoming fall break, I’ll be staying in Manhattan at a friend’s. She promises to take me to the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (she sent me this photo) and assures that we will have a great gay time in New York . Cheers.





I was sitting on the plane when the captain announced the final descent into Los Angeles. This is where I live; I’m home for October break. But that was when it finally hit me: this was the longest time I had been outside of the Vassar bubble in the last month and a half. I never realized how far I had been sucked into it until suddenly I found myself sitting at home on the couch with my family, away from all my new friends and away from Vassar.

How did I live so long without this?

The Vassar bubble is a phenomena which I believe happens at all small liberal arts schools. It’s a great bubble to be stuck in, don’t get me wrong, but when you suddenly have to leave and enter the “real world” it feels somewhat like what I imagine postpartum depression to feel like.

It is bittersweet to say the least, being at my real home. It’s nice to see my family and to be back in Santa Monica. I missed waking up to the waves breaking over the ocean. I missed my mother’s cooking as well as the abundance of good food LA has—the fancy cheeses and desserts so good you could cry (note: this happened the other day while eating salty caramel butterscotch pudding. I just have a lot of feelings, deal with it). Since I’ve come back, it’s like I’m the only one that’s changed. My family still has the same trivial drama; my home friends still talk about the same things we talked about in high school. It’s totally expected I guess. I’ve moved onto a different part of life while everyone back in LA has generally stayed the same.

While coming home may be a bit of a shock, my life in the bubble has been absolutely fantastic. I’ve been super active with QCVC (Queer Coalition Vassar College) and was made Freshman Representative along with my other friend. The two of us recently led a discussion on queer relationships. It was very interesting to hear what people had to say and weird at the same time especially since it was apparently my one month anniversary with K and she was in the room with me. One month and things are going well. We went to the Autumn Reception together which was held for LGBTQ students and faculty. There were lots of fancy free hors d’oeuvres (win!) and I got to bust out a Bar Mitzvah casual outfit.

Anyway, speaking of relationships, I’ve somehow managed to create a group of queer ladies, two of which I now fondly call my “Lesbros.” It’s great; we help each other out with girl trouble and our weekly (or sometimes daily) freak outs about girls or life or whatever. Oh snap, I forgot to mention that I went to this Queer Lady party which was super fun and jeez I’ve never seen so many likeminded ladies. So as strange as it sounds to me, I’m starting to settle in and become a real Vassar student.

Lesbros invade apple orchard!

The last few weeks have been great but also filled with many “Ah-oh my god, what is my life?” moments. In my “Civilization in Question” class, we’ve learned the importance of reading texts objectively and being able to step away from a situation. I’m finding myself more and more able to do this with my own life whenever I’m having one of those moments. I say, “Check yo self before you wreck yo self” and honestly this tacky motto has been helping me a lot. I think about how lucky I am to go Vassar and how I should stop trying to control everything and just let things happen. It’s really strange how much I’m learning about myself. I thought when I got here that was one thing I truly knew.



Bryn Mawr

As I’ve been settling into Bryn Mawr, I’ve finally had time to explore one of the most unique parts of queer life here — Philly’s gayborhood. On my first trip there, I went to an 18+ night at a gay club with some queer friends from Bryn Mawr. Unlike parties I attended at nearby colleges, where I was too aware of the heteronormativity to truly enjoy the experience, I was just able to dance with my friends and watch the awesome drag show. I was much less aware of my queer identity at the gay club than at the college parties, probably because it didn’t feel abnormal to be queer when I was surrounded by other queer people. That night made me realize, once again, how wonderful and important all-queer spaces are. Being around people with similar experiences and knowing that you won’t be judged, even if all you’re doing is dancing, is one of the most liberating feelings in the world.

On my second trip to Philly’s gayborhood, I went with my friend from rugby on a gayborhood field trip organized by the Rainbow Alliance, Bryn Mawr’s queer group. Although we could only stay for a few hours, I got to buy a Virginia Woolf book at Giovanni’s Room, eat gay pizza (which, not surprisingly, tastes the same as regular pizza), and see Philly Aids Thrift’s humorous attempt to prevent shoplifting. Having such a vibrant off-campus queer community to compliment Bryn Mawr’s on-campus one makes me feel like I belong here even more.

One of the highlights of my month was meeting Alison Bechdel. I have to confess that, before I came to Bryn Mawr, I didn’t know who she was. But, when I learned that Bryn Mawr was bringing her to campus as our freshman seminar speaker, and that my freshman seminar wouldn’t be covering her work because it wasn’t related to our topic of Western and Middle Eastern relations, I decided to read her work on my own. I devoured Fun Home in a day. The combination of queer and feminist themes, along with compelling storytelling and literary references, made it irresistible.

During her presentation, Bechdel read us excerpts from Fun Home and Are You My Mother? and then Bryn Mawr’s director of creative writing asked her questions about her work and her college experience. At the end, when she discussed her writing process, she quoted from The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation by Hayden White. “Narrative becomes a problem only when we wish to give to real events the form of a story. It is because real events do not offer themselves as stories that their narrativization is so difficult.”

The week before Bechdel’s presentation, I had been frantically working to finish a piece for my Creative Nonfiction class, in which I discussed my experience visiting my sick great grandmother last June. After one and a half drafts, I realized that the overarching idea I really wanted to focus on in my essay was narrative, specifically my desire to frame my experience with my great grandmother as a story and in the process distance myself emotionally from it. I wasn’t under the impression that this idea, this preoccupation with the contrast between narrative and reality, was original, but I also wasn’t sure if it was an idea worth exploring. I had felt confident in my academic work in high school, but this was college; were my ideas worthy of discussion in such an elite setting? But here was a famous author, quoting from a published book, discussing her thoughts about the very idea I was considering. The sense of validation I felt was overwhelming.

During the reception after the presentation, I told Bechdel that I wrote for Autostraddle and asked for a picture with her for my column. She agreed, so here it is!

And so college continues — late-night homework sessions, visiting another dorm with friends just because I can, pulling a muscle at rugby practice and walking around for the rest of the evening with an ice pack wrapped around my leg. It’s not home yet, but I’m starting to feel like it soon will be.


Next: Nita, Kate & Claire


Wellesley College

I squeezed my eyes shut, blocking out the light streaming in from the window and willing myself not to cry. “Have you been feeling irritated or depressed? That’s another symptom of a concussion,” said the soothing nurse practitioner on the phone.

My voice cracked as I started to respond, and the tears started flowing. “This is normal?” Frick. I hate crying in front of people. I didn’t actually feel sad — my brain just said “produce tears” and my eyes responded instantaneously. I had already cried in front of my girlfriend that afternoon, after getting the concussion. She used to play rugby, and got roped in for one last game because we’re running low on players.

Our rugby team has had bad luck with injuries this season.

We’ve had an ambulance to our practice field three times already. Despite the setbacks, I really love being a part of a team. I’ve even given two of them gay haircuts.

My love for the team hasn’t been enough to keep me healthy, though. I was sick for about two weeks with a throat cold before tackling someone during a game and slamming my head into the ground. I’m still not sure exactly how I managed to make my head hit the dirt with enough force to concuss me, but it happened, and I spent the next week a teary, blinking mess, avoiding bright lights of any kind and doing zero academic work.

Once I got back to classes, I pulled my first college all-nighter to study for my American Politics midterm and I still didn’t feel prepared, even though I love politics and have watched all of the debates so far while proudly sporting an “LGBT for Obama” button.

I am almost calm right now, though. I just walked home from my girlfriend’s dorm room. We’ve been dating for more than a month now, but it’s not getting any easier to leave her for cold textbooks that can’t cuddle back. Her room is also so much more spacious and interesting than mine, even though I have a cool whiteboard.

She has a vast collection of bowties hanging on her wall, and a ceiling border of postcards. She also had enough room to comfortably fit a futon. She is a senior: she was one of the older students helping us move in and get to know the campus during Orientation. I saw her around a few times before we started talking: it’s pretty difficult not to notice the ridiculously cute girl on a unicycle. Getting to know her, and being in a relationship with her, has been pretty damn wonderful.

About two weeks ago, we ventured outside of the Wellesley bubble to get baking supplies from the grocery store. I had my arm slung around her waist and my head on her shoulder when I noticed the family of four walking towards us, looking like they’d just come straight from church. My mouth kept going about the pros and cons of various cake mixes and pie fillings, but in my head, I briefly considered untangling myself from her. I’m glad I didn’t — the family didn’t even bat an eyelash. I know that back home, I wouldn’t feel completely comfortable holding her hand in most public places. I distinctly remember the night I was glared at by multiple people after walking around one of the higher-end outdoor shopping malls with my arm slung around the shoulders of a friend who also happened to have short hair.

Claire and fellow lesbianagette, Kate

Apparently in Massachusetts, and especially on a college campus, people just don’t care. I’m hoping that my dad will absorb the Massachusetts attitude towards queer people while he’s here this weekend: I’m planning on coming out to him. Here’s to hoping it’s no big deal!



Wellesley College

If I hadn’t been such an overachiever and sent in my last column about a week before it was due, I would have been able to tell you my exciting news. I got into the Shakespeare Society on October 14, 2012, at about 12:30am! I can’t tell you anything about the next few days, but suffice to say that it was scary, funny, sweaty, loving, sometimes awkward and always exciting. I auditioned for the show (Henry IV, part 1) and was cast as a Welsh lady and a fighting Scottish Earl. I’m learning how to pronounce Welsh, and I can’t wait to start working on fight choreography.

My Sonnet sister Rachel and I, the moment I got into Shakes

But the best thing has been the people. (And this is where I get really sappy.) If I thought I was happy before, I had no idea what was coming. The thing is, these people don’t know me, not really. But they are kinder to me than people I’ve known for years. A few weeks ago, I had a rough afternoon and my Sonnet sister (that’s like a big sister, in Shakes we have Sonnet families) left the library to hold me and let me cry into her collarbones for 45 minutes. Two Shakers who live on my floor let me come over and be the middle spoon for two and a half hours when I was having a bad day. It took me years to trust people enough in high school to be comfortable enough to cry around them, and all this after only three weeks.

I don’t know what it is about Shakes. I mean, Shakespeare is great, but that’s not all. The fact that so many of us are queer is great, but there are many other queers in the world and especially at Wellesley. Having a key to the Haus (yes, we spell it the German way) is great, cuddling is great, everything’s great and I need another adjective. It’s all the things that happen because of Shakes. It’s that I come to meetings and find a poem and cookies from my Secret Shaker (like a Secret Santa, you give anonymous gifts). It’s that I can find people in the Haus at almost any time of day or night, but it’s still an oasis from the rest of the world. It’s that the older Shakers, and even alums on Facebook and Autostraddle, go out of their way to make newbies feel comfortable and accepted.

My fellow Shaker Lily and I all dressed up for a Murder Mystery Party

It’s that I get to do cool things like stay up until 5am reading Shakespeare with an actor from London. Yeah, you heard me. Five actors from London were performing The Merchant of Venice, and I was crazy excited because I was Portia in Merchant last year. We lured the actors over after their Friday show, and we had a great party but they were a little alarmed by 25 extremely enthusiastic women asking them questions after a long night of acting. But one of them, Michael, was absolutely taken with the House and the Society and expressed interest in coming back the next night. So on Saturday we invited them back, but of all 25 Society members and 5 actors, only Michael and 7 of us showed up.

This turned out to be awesome because he just wanted to talk and see us act. My only party trick is Merchant so (somehow I was brave enough) I told him I’d act with him, if he would. We read the climactic scene and somehow I still knew most of my lines. We finished the scene and I was shaking so hard I couldn’t stand up but he hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek and said I was wonderful.

This is our Haus!

All I can think of to say is that this here, this is my It Gets Better story. I was moderately happy in high school, thanks to an exceptional theatre department and some truly wonderful friends, but it’s one of those situations where I didn’t know I was less happy than I could have been. Now, I’m more productive, I’m relatively well rested and my self-confidence has never been higher. I’ve been studying nirvana and eudaimonia in two of my classes, and I’ve been thinking: this is like reaching nirvana for me — it’s a higher state of being.



The University of North Carolina Greensboro

I’m writing this column from the train, headed back to Greensboro. I’ve just finished Fall Break, and let me tell you guys, the break was much needed. Oi. I’ve been so, so busy since my last column; classes have been catching up to me and I’m actually starting to get a social life and a lot of things have been happening that I should probably fill y’all in on.

For starters, I’ve been hanging out with these two really kickass girls named Laura and Chelsea who have dubbed themselves my “lesbian fairy godmothers.” And really, everyone needs a pair of lesbian fairy godmothers, especially ones as wonderful as mine are; they invite me over to hang out with them, we all cried over the Doctor Who midway season finale together, and they even made me a really awesome, informative powerpoint on the basics of lesbian sex. They’re seriously the best and they’ve been lifesavers during my first months of college.

I’m becoming more and more involved in the Wesley Luther group on campus, and have definitely found a home there; everyone is so loving and inclusive, and the LGBT Bible study that I’ve joined is probably the best thing I’ve found since coming to UNC Greensboro. Our leader, Andrew (affectionately known around here as Big A) knows a lot about queer theology, and looking at the Bible from a queer perspective is really refreshing and great, especially in a state that can be as homophobic as North Carolina. I’ve even been asked about becoming a leader in the Wesley Luther group for the spring semester, and I think I’m going to do it, guys; it just feels right, and I’m so glad I’m able to marry my faith and sexuality together, especially since all my previous experiences at home with religion were less than stellar.

I’m also spending a lot more time with the Deaf community in Greensboro, in particular my new friend named Yuri (who I unfortunately don’t have a picture of, but will next time). My signing is improving, and I recently found out that I passed my first interpreter screening exam to continuing on in my major. Sometimes it’s exhausting and sometimes I question if interpreting is really what I want to be doing, but in the long run I think it’s where I’m supposed to be.

What else? The State Fair’s come to town in NC, and I was thrilled to return again this year; I’ve gone every year since I was a little kid. This year I went with my parents while I was on fall break, then met up with Rachel and we walked around together, rode rides and ate all the fried food our stomachs could handle.

Speaking of Rachel, we’re doing really, really well. We’ve adjusted to the distance and knowing that we’re always a few weeks away from seeing each other is really good. UNC Greensboro is on her list of schools to apply to (along with Vassar College, actually), and while I’m trying my hardest not to influence her decision, there’s a part of me (okay, a huge part) that really hopes she ends up here. Or at Greensboro College, which is right down the road. But we’ve done well about keeping in touch, and the distance isn’t as bad as I had feared.

I’m finally beginning to feel like I’m settling in at UNCG and definitely keeping myself busy, what with classes and gearing up for NaNoWriMo. So when that’s underway I’ll be sure to update y’all on how my novel’s going. So far college is treating me well, and if writing a 50,000 word novel next month while dealing with classes and finals doesn’t kill me, then I think I’m going to be all right.

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Lesbianage has written 9 articles for us.


  1. Raise your hand if anyone else could have really used those fairy godmothers with that powerpoint when you were a freshman.

    Good find, Nita. Good find.

    • Thanks! I thought so myself. :D They’re pretty grand.
      I may ask them about posting the link to the powerpoint here, since it’s pretty great. And Chelsea, one of my fairy godmothers, is the one who convinced me to apply for the Lesbianage thing, and she just texted me telling me she feels famous for being in the column. :D

  2. I am overloading/dying of the cuteness right now. My heart swells for each of you, and I have some form of sheer vicarious pride going on through you that’s really making me smile hardcore right now :)

    I love it! You make us all proud, beautiful people!

  3. Really happy to see that at least one state school/non-ivy league or private college was included–and from the South to boot!

      • Nita, don’t. Or do, but in a good way. While many of the schools referenced above have long, proud lesbian herstories–Vassar, for example, I’m thinking about EStVM in particular, or Ithaca College, where my own girlfriend went for her undergrad five years ago because “she heard they had lesbians and a good film program,” or Bryn Mawr, with its long list of lesbian alum luminaries including Guin Turner–these schools (with the exception of UNC) fail to provide any diversity in terms of socio-economic status. Don’t get me wrong, I know WHY they’re on this list, many of them are among or echo a proud tradition of women’s colleges in America–Vassar in 1865, Smith in 1872, Wellesley in 1875, and Bryn Mawr in 1886–and by extension, serve to represent a visible lesbian presence in academia spanning the past century. I’m disappointed, however, that social class appears to be an overlooked dimension of collegiate experience in this article, most especially, perhaps, when race, sexuality, and gender inclusion are so clearly articulated, if not celebrated. Granted, the goal of this piece may not have been to offer a representative sample/portrait of incoming college lesbians. But with 87% of Autostraddle readers having attended college, I’m surprised that there’s little sensitivity to class dynamics here. Finally, Nita, if you feel like the oddball, embrace it. Your institutional affiliation probably resonates with the majority of that 87%.

        • <3 Thank you so much. And haha, UNCG did actually used to be a women's college way back when. But yeah, I'm totally embracing the oddball–the northern schools don't get to experience the greatness that is Fried Chicken Wednesday in the caf!

  4. So glad to hear from a Vassar lady! I’m a Poughkeepsie native (currently at school in DC), but I feel so at home whenever I’m on Vassar’s campus. The other parts of the city aren’t necessarily queer-friendly, but the Vassar bubble really creates a safe space for so many.

  5. I want Lesbian Fairy Godmothers!!! Okay, well, I have a drag mama. Does that count?
    Anyway, glad to hear things are going well for you girls!
    Claire, best of luck coming out to your dad.

  6. This is goddamn fucking adorable. As terrible as collegiate queeritude was for me (religious school in the South), I’m immeasurably pleased to see you darlings doing so well. Persevere!

  7. Ahhhhhhhhhh CLAIRE I forgot how friggin’ massive (tall) you were. All the young ones are giants. Also, so much love and support being sent your way in coming out! <3 <3 <3

    • Ahaha I am reasonably tall- but I was also wearing heeled boots in that picture. I like to wear stomper boots to election related events because stomping around keeps me happy and allows me to supress some of the rage-y feelings I might otherwise have. Thanks, paper <3

    • I am also teeny-tiny, to the point that I don’t fit into any of the costumes for the Shakes play, nor am I tall enough to make the set happen. I like to think I’m tall, but it’s just not true.

      • Kate, in the Shakes basement there is a *tiny* Juliet costume from the late ’90s/early ’00s. It’s cream with light pink accents and wonderful. Keep an eye out for it (fingers crossed nothing has happened to it). You’d be perfect in it during teas next semester. There’s also the most terrific, tiny fuchsia prom dress that has teas written all over it down there.

        So glad you made it in!
        (’05, Sonnet 23)

        • A – I thiiink I’ve seen both of those dresses around somewhere during the past 4 years, now I want to look.

          also HI SONNET FAMILY, I’m the oldest of our three right now, class of ’13! :DDD

          • Liz, you should totally look and you should totally share them with Kate! And then, pretty please, post back on here to let me know they are not lost. I *loved* those dresses. Also, proving that Shakers are pack rats, when I back for reunion in ’10, there was a polaroid of me in that fuschia dress in one of the kitchen drawers.

  8. Y’all are impossibly adorable. :)
    There’s something about that first October away at college that is pure magic: when you’ve been away from home for a few months and are really settling in, finding your people, and you end up doing the most random/memorable things for fun.

  9. Sunny, you’ll love the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. I’m pretty sure it’s a requirement that you have to be totally adorable and queer to work there, as I’ve always left the store filled with feelings about how cute their employees are.

  10. Alison! Bechdel! EEEEEEE!

    Adorable club haus! EEEEEEE!

    Acceptance! Self actualization! EEEEEEE!

    Also- those who play rugby, I commend you. My cousin nearly lost an ear to the game- and any game in which ear-loss is a distinct possibility is not for me.

    @ Claire, one of my good friends concussed herself in exactly the same way (albeit during a soccer game). It took her a couple of months to come right, but was able to get compassionate consideration and extra writing time in her exams that semester- perhaps something similar is available for you if you need it?

    • I have gotten something very similar- I talked to the first year dean, who helped me talk to my professors, and everyone was very wonderful about letting me get back into academics slowly, and catching up at my own pace. I am very, very grateful, because I was out of it for quite a while.

  11. You all are pretty impossibly cutettractive, and with the good hair. I have yet to find the lesbians here… I’m at University of Idaho… so one of the least queer spaces probably? There’s a few, and they all seem to be permanently paired *sigh.*
    Also, Nita, it’s nice to see someone of faith in the community! I think it’s very cool.
    Also, jeaaaalllllousss of that Haus like nobody else (and by that I mean everyone else, because we’re all dying of envy!)

  12. Ah, this this this. I have read Autostraddle for. ever. without posting anything, but after seeing this series, I have a lot of feels about how awesome all you ladies are and how I wish I had had lesbian fairy godparents.

  13. So Sunny I’m 80% sure I saw you and blonde friend at a Cat Power show a few weeks ago. For reference I was the slightly obnoxious girl sitting in front of you.

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