Thursday, June 4, 2020

Column: How being queer has shaped my college experience

February 14, 2019

Editor's note: The State News staff member who wrote this will remain anonymous because they are not out to their family.

Young adults enter college with the expectation that it is a place to experiment with drugs, abstract social engagements and most notoriously, sexuality. 

For many students, there is no feeling similar or comparable to slipping through throngs of their intoxicated peers while the dance floor vibrates underneath them from stampeding feet and pounding trap music. 

For me, there has been no feeling similar or comparable to the emptiness settled deep in my chest upon realizing that I don’t currently love men, I’ve never really loved a man and I’ll never love a man. That I spent the last few years of my life knowing something didn’t feel right when my friends chatted away about their crushes, but negotiated with myself anyway, attempting to force heterosexuality upon myself by lusting after men, persuading myself to feel something towards them, trying to make it feel right. That the guys I went out with in high school meant nothing to me, rather made me feel uncomfortable and self conscious. 

Thinking one can confidently confirm something about oneself versus discovering something important about oneself causes a vicious turn in one’s psyche.

A lot has happened to me emotionally and mentally upon realizing I’m gay. I have always been an ally. I grew up around peers who identified as queer and transgender and quickly became an advocate for LGBTQ rights, always being the first person to speak up when someone would make a snarky comment about the community. 

But realizing I was gay was, and still is, one of the hardest processes I’ve ever had to work through. Many things weigh heavy on my mind. Constant fear of what others think or believe to be true about me. The idea of making friends or acquaintances uncomfortable. Attempting to repent “the gay” by forcing myself to establish feelings for men I surround myself with. Knowing my family will potentially have a poor reaction and become estranged. Wondering if I’ll be capable of having a successful future if my little “secret” were to be exposed to people outside of my immediate friend group. 

I feel like a different person. Sometimes I miss the person I was years ago, even months ago, and wonder how things have become so extraordinarily complicated in the span of six months. 

Though, I do appreciate the life changes college has offered me. I found that I really do not like men. I don’t like kissing men. I don’t like being romantically involved with men. I don’t like flirting with men. Men spark an intense anxiety inside of me. But, I also found that I do like kissing women. I like being romantically involved with women. I like flirting with women. Women do not spark an intense anxiety inside of me.

I thought something was wrong with me for a long time. I spent weeks dissecting the way I felt after a poor encounter at the beginning of the year, but I feel right in the presence of a woman. The unsettling feeling leaves me. The knots in my stomach dissolve. My heart clenches, but not because of feeling uncomfortable, but because of nervousness. Innocent nervousness. Nervousness prompted by curiosity. Nervousness comparable to a small child performing in front of their peers for the first during a school talent show. 

The time I spent being upset, angry or in denial was time wasted, time I could have spent being happy for myself. I realize now, after my months of searching for answers, being gay isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a “thing” at all. It isn’t something that can be materialized or quantified. It’s not a choice. It’s not a tool. It’s not a lifestyle. It can’t be defined. 

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