Queer Corner: Moving In and Coming Out

I hope you’ve realized that being at Colgate means that, at some point or another, you have to interact with people that are very different from yourself, and you have to learn to get along with them. Sometimes you even have to live with them.

The most awkward part about talking to my first-year roommate on the phone was telling him that I was gay (he had seen it on Facebook), and that we would talk about it once we both got to school. Needless to say, it was a subject that was never openly discussed by either of us. One of my friends that came out during his first semester never told his roommate outright, but rather brought guys over to their room, hoping that his roommate would get the hint. And yet another one of my friends never came out to his roommate (but was fine telling the rest of his friends), fearing that it would turn their roommate relationship sour and would make for a miserable rest of the year.

These stories, along with countless others, happen every year, not only in first-year residences, but in almost every building, in every class year. There isn’t a certain time when people come out, though college is often a time when students feel comfortable enough to come out. In the hopes that you will be able to better live with roommates and avoid the weirdness of my first year living arrangements, I’m offering some tips if your roommate comes out to you as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, although these are good things to keep in mind regardless of your or your roommate’s sexual orientation.

The first thing to remember if your roommate, or anyone, comes out to you is to be supportive. If they are sharing with you this private information it is because they trust and respect you. With this trust comes a certain responsibility. Ask them who else knows, and whether or not you can talk to others about it. This simple gesture means a lot to a person coming out, showing them that you’re supportive and sensitive in their coming out process, along with showing them that you will not accidently “out them” (telling someone else that your roommate is gay) against

their will.

You might be nervous that your roommate will start to hit on you, and maybe make some moves on you. Having a healthy ego is good, but don’t flatter yourself too much. Even though your roommate is attracted to people of your gender, it doesn’t automatically mean that they’re attracted to you. You could be Brad Pitt or Megan Fox, and your roommate could still function just fine without any out-of-control, libidinal impulses. Queer people have standards, just like straight people do, and we’ll do our best to resist the temptation to

“recruit” you.

Make sure that you treat any relationships that your roommate has as if they were heterosexual ones. Be sure that you talk about having people over (the infamous sexile), what’s appropriate, what’s not and agree that you’ll both respect the room rules. This should be common sense for any rooming situation, and will lead to fewer headaches (and awkward moments) down the road.

Above all other things, remember that your roommate is still the same person they were before you learned about their sexual orientation. Whether they were neat or messy, stayed up late or went to bed early, liked The Office or listened to Kanye West, they will continue to be that way, sometimes to your chagrin. A person’s sexual orientation is another aspect of that person, and knowing that simply lets you know something more about them. You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate, but you should be able to live with them and respect each other. That doesn’t mean avoiding them and not talking; it means getting to know your roommate, discussing important subjects with them, laying out ground rules, and learning how to live with someone, a skill that will come in handy later in life.

If you are someone that doesn’t agree with homosexuality or are uncomfortable with it, ask yourself: why? Does knowing a person’s sexual orientation change your relationship with them? It might be healthy to take advantage of Colgate’s diverse student body and meet some queer people and learn about them as being people first and foremost. They might surprise you. It might even be that you know some queer people, but they are fearful to come out to you. Confronting your own feelings and opinions might be difficult and surprising, but it’s part of growing, learning and being a part of this exciting Colgate community.

Contact Eugene at [email protected].