Just in case you weren’t aware, there is definitely a “type” of person with which Colgate is associated. Downright shocking, but I am glad you now know.
It’s absurd, really, to suggest that a member of this campus community wouldn’t be able to describe certain qualifying traits associated with “The Colgate Student”: we’ve been seeing them since First-Year Orientation and they are referred to often enough for us that the term is almost cliché.
And the archetypes of collegiate life don’t stop there. There is The Women Studies Major and The Jock. We essentially all know what differentiates the people in each fraternity and sorority and – even though the dynamics change every year and our thoughts about them don’t – for what each first-year dormitory is known. Being part of this community, we all learn group identifiers quickly from the constant buzz about campus. So then we’re back at the same idea of labels and groups identifying with generic traits. Not really novel, but there it is.
The LGBTQ community on this campus is no exception. In some respects our group is special and unique. Yet in others, the glaring generality with which our group gets stuck, firstly only describes a certain section of our lives and secondly, has negative connotations for those within the group.
I’ll break it down.
Being queer is not a self-selected process, but being part of the queer community here on campus is. We are a group of people who are out and about, either privately to each other or more widely to the rest of campus. We are diverse, belonging to all sorts of backgrounds and participating in a wide variety of things across this campus and the larger Hamilton community.
We bring programming to campus around issues that relate to us and do things together on this campus because, at one level or another, we can relate and understand what we all have been through and what we all go through at home and at school.
Frankly, it’s also nice to know who you can get with, since we’re lacking our own little shiny version of the Jug.
Not everyone in our group has terrible coming out stories, and we don’t get together and talk about how much we dislike the straight population on campus. We generally like you, especially when you’re accepting and supportive. Bravo.
But I have heard us called “freaks and geeks,” and that is exactly how we are stereotyped at Colgate. It is true that generally a lot of things get subsumed under the LGBTQ umbrella and because of the openness and inclusiveness, all sorts of things get lumped in. Ever heard of BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism)? Most people think of it as a queer thing, and it doesn’t really help that popular media helps reinforce that connection. (Xtina, if you are going to be kissing some ladies, do you have to tie them up and whip them too?)
It probably also doesn’t help that the word “queer” means strange, so it seems that instantly belonging to the community makes one weird.
What then does that mean for Colgate? At least in my experience, it means that if someone is queer and comes out at college, but needs to retain social capital, they won’t associate with the community. They might incorrectly assume the community is solely focused on helping everyone work through their problems. Or they’ll think that being queer isn’t a necessary identity to embody and get pigeonholed in other activities. Thus the stereotype replicates itself.
Don’t get me wrong, there are active out people on this campus that transgress these boundaries. We just don’t have enough of them. For the same reasons we don’t have enough out straight allies who care about inclusion or advocate for queer issues past casual classroom acknowledgment.
There is a disconnection present on this campus, and we’ve been shunted to one side.
I promise we aren’t all “freaks” and that we don’t bite. Our community is supportive, but it is celebratory of everything that we accomplish as individuals and as a group, and it is also very social and amusing.
Sure, we have our quirky moments, but otherwise we’d be boring and our meetings would not be as remotely interesting as they are. At times it feels like we are an underground organization when all we want to be is out and proud.
Give us a chance – give this whole campus a chance – to surprise you and make you check your premises. You might even surprise us in return.