I’m sure almost every person on this campus could say that there is a specific campus group, community or club to which they owe a big part of the reason for their happiness during their time at Colgate. I’ve been fortunate to have a couple (shout out to Pep Band and Linkstaff!). It probably won’t be the least bit surprising since I write this column every week, but when I leave Colgate the group I’m going to care about and remember the most will be the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/ Questioning (LGBTQ) community. I mean, I’ll remember other groups and feel the intense impact on me that they’ve had, but there are certain things about the queer community here (other than that delicious Rainbow cake) that I’ve always appreciated and have helped me come into my own.
When I applied to Colgate, I didn’t even check if there was anything like a Gay-Straight or Rainbow Alliance – they were just such weird concepts for me and where I grew up. Even with an LGBTQ Initiatives office there are only a few groups on campus, and the queer population isn’t terribly large. Yet the fact that there is even an office that puts on great events campus-wide, specifically about queer topics (usually combined with other topics to show the intersections of our lives and identities), means a lot to me in making me feel welcomed and comfortable here. While almost every speaker or presentation that comes to campus is interesting, I can connect to these speakers and their experiences on at least one level, and that has made a difference for me in feeling acclimated.
The students have a lot to do with it too. I always considered the friendships I made with people who were queer to be slightly deeper than with anyone who wasn’t (at least initially). It’s nothing against straight people, but there is an honesty which comes with accepting and then sharing the fact that you’re queer that makes friendships easier, makes you more able to take risks and makes it easier to connect with people because you know yourself and you want others to know themselves too. This isn’t true of all queer people (some are in denial and some are just scaredy cats), but since my first-year, I’ve felt a more direct and clear connection with the queer people here. A lot of it has to do with mentoring other LGBTQ students and being part of really open and honest discussions with them. And some of it has to do with the fact that we’re such an eclectic group, and I like weirdness and variety. It also is a result of the fact that, since there isn’t a huge population of us, we get to define the conversations about queerness and show a specific side of what that means for each of us on this campus. A female friend of mine is often sad that there aren’t any blatant lesbian stereotypes walking around campus, and sometimes really wants to cut her hair short, get out her work boots and be as butch as a football player. I sometimes feel bad for camping it up and being flamboyant, but on a campus that acts so similar sometimes it’s too much fun not to. There is definitely a lack of fabulousness on this campus at times, and there are only so many of us to try and fill that void up. So while it sometimes makes me cringe at how silly my outfit is or my way of presenting myself might be, it’s a lot more fun to play on peoples’ expectations and bring a little color and excitement to our campus.
Our community isn’t perfect, but I’m always meeting more and more people who identify, come out or want a deeper connection to the queer community here and what it has to offer. I can only hope that in the years to come it stays as vibrant and active as it has been, always working to be part of the Colgate community and to assist queer students as much as possible. It has the chance to be stronger with more people being open and joining it, but in its small size it also produces strong leaders on this campus that make great changes and influence so many areas – the active members of the Class of 2011 show that perfectly (and if you go to Lavender Graduation you can celebrate them). I can truly say that being open and honest about myself and those with whom I was surrounded by made my college experience as amazing as it has been, and I would like nothing better than to have everyone experience that.
I wouldn’t trade my involvement with the queer community here for anything. Thanks for a great four years. Stay fabulous, queers of Colgate.