College Lesbianage Class of 2016: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts

Kelsey

Bryn Mawr

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It’s only been three weeks since I arrived at Bryn Mawr, but it’s felt like an eternity — not because there’s nothing to do, but because there’s so much. From when I wake up at 7:10am — early mornings sadly don’t end in high school, at least not if you’re me and take Arabic five days a week — to when I go to sleep at some hopefully not-too-late time, I’m doing things. And it’s wonderful. The hard part is feeling that joy when my alarm goes off.

So far, my experience at Bryn Mawr hasn’t been as gay as it probably will be once clubs start and I can go to things like Rainbow Alliance (our GSA), but it’s still pretty gay, in both meanings of the word. During my first week at the Tri-College Summer Institute, a program for freshman to discuss issues of diversity, we each introduced ourselves with some of our identities, and one quarter of us openly identified as LGBT. I may have come from a somewhat liberal high school, but that is not a fraction I’m used to–in high school, it was more like 20 or 30 out of almost 2,000. So needless to say, the queer girls are not nearly as hard to find as I feared–searching for them would only be like Where’s Waldo if Waldo was one out of every four or five people and looked just like everyone else.

Gaydar is definitely not a reliable thing here, not that I had it in the first place. There are straight girls with short hair and gay girls with long hair and girls who don’t even go here, so I’ve quickly learned that the best way to find out if someone is gay is talking to them. It usually comes up sooner or later, especially if they talk to me because they read my Autostraddle column.

By far the least gay thing I’ve done so far is go to parties. There haven’t been many parties at Bryn Mawr so far, so my friends and I have checked out a few at a nearby college. The only one that was even remotely gay was during orientation week, because my dorm group’s theme was rainbow, and my rainbow knee-hi socks and earrings (from a gay pride parade, of course) made their college debut.

The others (and even that one, once we actually got there) were, to say the least, heteronormative. I talked to some cool people and danced a little, but the entire time all I could see were straight couples grinding and making out a few feet away from me, and I had to wonder, why aren’t any same-sex couples dancing together? If I had any ability to flirt, I might have tried to change that, but instead I left the parties eager to go back to my Bryn Mawr bubble. Here, heternormativity isn’t the norm, but the punch line of a rather bad joke.

I’m not quite sure what possessed me to do this, but I’ve started playing rugby. I haven’t played a team sport since 2nd grade soccer, but a friend kept talking about how cool it is and now here I am, getting a sports physical and preparing to be tackled two hours a day, three days a week. It would be nice to actually be good at athletics for the first time in ever, but I’ve long ago accepted that I have neither athletic talent nor the willpower to develop skill, so I’ll settle for having fun and making friends, hopefully including some queer ones.

For now, just being here is more than enough.

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Lillian

Vassar

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The last few weeks have been somewhat of a whirlwind. One of the first things I noticed is that people here are really nice. They aren’t the kind of people I knew in high school—the judgmental, flaky, and neurotic kinds. Then again it could just be because it’s the first month of school and everyone is just trying to make friends, though I seriously doubt this is the case.

Since I’ve been here I think I’ve become a better version of myself. I know people usually say this when they’re in love with someone, so to be honest I’m in love with Vassar. Being in a totally new and welcoming atmosphere has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. I went to an ice skating meeting, danced with this girl, and even auditioned to be a drill instructor for French. The latter of which was actually super nerve wrecking. But guess what? I got the job and taught my first session the other day which, much to my surprise wasn’t that scary.

I thought the whole process of adjusting to college life would be scary. I thought making friends would be difficult, but basically I can just walk into anyone’s room and say “Hey, cool poster” or in my case someone will come up and want to play with my hair and friendships are born. Also there are lots of bonding activities and I’ve made friends just from showing pride for my house.

All my classes are great and the teachers here are really interested in what each student has to say. I have an insane amount of work and reading to do but it is all eye-opening and interesting (I feel like I should write brochures…). I could go on for a whole page about how awesome the academics are and explaining what my classes are like at Vassar but after all this series is called “College Lesbianage” so let’s get down to the important stuff.

I’ve made a sincere effort to go to almost every gay related activity on campus. One interesting panel called was called “Gays of Our Lives” and consisted of five or six upperclassmen talking about their dating/sex lives, gender identity and sexuality. It was very honest and hilarious. There are also free dinners in the LGBTQ center for freshmen every Tuesday, which is basically a way for people to get involved in the community (and flirt) in a very casual setting. Did I mention there was free food? That’s definitely a selling point. Out of all my favorite things, free food and the gays are tied at number one.

So at this meeting, there was this girl — we’ll call her K. She asked if I happened to write for Autostraddle and we talked for a bit. The weekend after, I saw her dancing and went over and danced with her. She didn’t immediately run for the hills so I took this as a good sign. The dance room was hot and disgusting and I saw this as a good opportunity to get some fresh air. K agreed. We walked around the lake together and into the Shakespeare Garden, a very romantic spot by the way. When we got there, the steps were slippery and I asked her if she wanted a hand — she didn’t let go of it until she left my at my door later that evening. K asked me for my number and I spent the next 24 hours staring at my phone waiting to see a text. We eventually met up the following day and spent it chatting, walking hand and hand, and listening to what else but Tegan and Sara. At the end of the day K stopped me and asked me if I would go out with her. The question took me off guard a bit but I was more than overjoyed and now this girl is kind of my very first girlfriend.

Life just happened so fast. It’s strange and scary but I’m definitely not complaining. Up until a certain point I thought my relationship status would perpetually be “forever alone”. And now I have a girlfriend and a job and I somehow didn’t mess up any of it yet. I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks will be like and if my streak of awesomeness will ever run out (that sounded conceited, sorry).

Now it’s time to get back to work, to reading hard texts and wooing K and also finding time to, you know, sleep and eat. Until next time lovelies!

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Claire

Wellesley College

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Last year, when I started touring colleges, I would make a special effort to check out the older students as we wandered around campus, listening to yet another peppy student tell us about the specific merits of that specific school. Did the older students look happy? I sincerely hope that none of the students from the campus tour this morning judged Wellesley by my appearance, because while I might be quite haggard on the outside, I’m beaming on the inside.

I didn’t get to sleep before 1:00 a.m. a single night during Orientation. They had us very busy with events, panels, and other bonding activities like s’mores making, and on top of that, I made friends! I have often heard the maxim “You cannot have a social life, good grades, and a decent night’s sleep in college” but I honestly didn’t believe it until I actually got to college. During Orientation, I definitely prioritized my social life above my sleep schedule. How could I not?

Sleep sounds so much more boring than staying up until the late hours of the night eating dessert and making crafts on the Davis plaza while a band played, or racing each other in a bouncy castle during a circus-themed party in the gym, or even taking a late night dip in the lake with the entire first-year class. I’ve also had plenty of opportunities to dance. There was a James Bond themed mixer during Orientation, complete with mock-tinis and intrigue, and every Thursday night at the Pub there is a dance party.

Sleeping in during Orientation wasn’t an option either. I met my friends every morning for breakfast in the vegetarian dining hall, and then we were whisked off to a variety of panels and daytime events to help prepare us for life as college students.

I particularly enjoyed the sustainable move in sale, and wound up taking home a ridiculous straw hat, as well as some more practical things such as a printer and a mini Christmas tree. They also had a panel called “Rainbow Connections” that was specifically for queer identified students. Watching a panel of students and administrators talk about life on campus as a queer identified student, and knowing that I am supported here, not tolerated, honestly takes my breath away.

Queer couples are significantly more visible on campus than anywhere else I’ve ever been. Walking down the sidewalk holding hands with your girlfriend will not turn heads. I feel comfortable here. There is so much community, and when they talk about safe spaces on this campus, they actually take them seriously. There is also a sibling-matching program through the Queer Council and Advisory Board. I was midway through a bite of delicious Thai food when they called my name. I was jumping almost as soon as I was standing- my big sister is awesome! I also have a “twin sister”– my big sister was paired with two first years (I got lucky) – and she’s a friend of mine! We have a very cool and queer family going. What the familial relationship entails depends really on the people who are matched. Some drift apart from their big siblings pretty quickly. Some stay friends and hang out often. I’d like to be friends, even though it seems that we are all frantically busy.

Even though I haven’t played team sports in at least ten years, and my level of athletic talent is definitely questionable, I’ve joined the rugby team. It happened chance: I was checking my email before going on a run, and saw the announcement for an open practice. I’ve been back to practice almost every day since. Anyone who knew me before college would be very surprised, but I love rugby. I love the team spirit and the sheer amount of queers present on all of the teams. We played a tournament last weekend, and alternative lifestyle haircuts abounded. Smith, in particular, had quite the queer looking team. I also love tackling people, and learning new plays, and discovering hidden bruises.

Between the questionable sleep schedule and the blooming bruises from shoulders to ankles, I’m quite the sight to behold. Even if I’m looking a bit rough at the moment, though, I’m happy. Wellesley seems like a perfect fit for me.

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Lesbianage

Lesbianage has written 9 articles for us.

68 Comments

  1. 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.

      • 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

      • 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…

        • 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.

        • 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 :)

    • 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. 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’.

  3. 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).

    • 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).

    • 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!

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

  4. Had a major heartswell reading your post, Lillian. As a proud Vassar alumna, you are exactly the wonderful spirit I hoped would attend that weird, wild college. Can’t wait for further updates!

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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).

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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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