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.
The University of North Carolina Greensboro
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next: Kelsey, Lillian & Claire
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.
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!
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.