Calling All Queer People


(Writer’s note: I use the word “queer” to refer to anyone who is not straight and/or cis.) 

To anyone who identifies as queer or questioning — if you are in the closet, out of the closet, or one foot out the door; if you feel embraced or isolated, proud or ashamed, satisfied or frustrated, in love or heartbroken — hear me out.

I’m going to start with a little bit about myself. I’ve had it pretty easy when it comes to being queer. My mom sang me songs from “Rent” as lullabies, I went to the first public high school with a gay-straight alliance, and I never worried I would lose a close friend after coming out. I’ve only been called a f****t once — look at me! But entering Middlebury as a first year, I found myself yearning for a queer community, one I felt had been lacking up to that point. I imagined having some sense of familiarity with all the queer faces across campus. I imagined a huge swarm of us gathering on a regular basis, for fun and for support. This was the type of community I honestly expected to be welcomed into.

It’s laughable now how wrong I was! We’re a mess. A scattered, bumpy, disconnected mess. I only ever hear people say “queer community” in an effort lump all queer people together, rather than referring to a cohesive community. I had hoped the whole of us would be greater than the sum of us, but at our best, we coexist on a basic level.

I spent my first year here upset about the lack of this idyllic queer community. Angry at people who didn’t attend queer events. Sad at seeing sexual tension (or lack thereof) eliminate potential friendships, particularly among men. Frustrated with people I judged to be living isolated from other queer people/spaces/culture, what I’ve gone so far as to describe as queer assimilation. How rude of me!

I’ve since had an idea that I wanted to share:

A cohesive queer community across campus is not what I need, and it’s not what we need. It’s almost as if my expectation of what we need hasn’t caught up with the reality of the 2010s. Some people are content, and I shouldn’t be bitter about it. This odd fixation of mine on having a tight-knit underground friend group is growing more outdated.

But there’s a lot missing, and I am still unsettled by this. There are those among us who are hiding, people who feel alone, and peers who feel unsafe expressing themselves authentically. A handful of the few queer spaces that exist can be exclusive to people identifying as a POC and/or trans. I do want to acknowledge the past and current generations of students and organizations which have worked to build queer communities, but there is a serious lack of support among the queer population. Is this the furthest we can go?

Queer Solidarity. That’s what we need. We don’t all have to skip in a circle holding hands, decked out in glitter and flowers (which may or may not still be a fantasy of mine) and we certainly have no obligation to be each other’s best friend. But we can do a better job of caring for each other and being aware of challenges we struggle with. I can’t tell you what that looks like exactly, but I know that we have a long way to go. I’ve yet to hear from anyone that believes Queer Solidarity already exists on campus.

There is an unbalanced perception of the extent that homophobia and transphobia exist on this campus. I could list all the examples of how friends describe their queer experiences here, but that goes against my point. How can I claim to be an ambassador to the queer community when it doesn’t exist, and when I only associate myself with a slice of the queer population?

I think a big step toward Queer Solidarity is to paint a big picture of what it’s like to be queer on campus and gather together to talk about it. That’s why, as a board member of the club Queers and Allies, I would like to promote a collaborative art project we’ve been working on. We are releasing an anonymous survey asking a few questions about what being queer on campus is like for YOU. Whatever you have to share —whether you feel embraced or isolated, safe or afraid, proud or ashamed — we want to hear it. Our plan is to take all the anonymous responses and create a visual representation of them, with an accompanying ceremony and discussion.

Please take some time and visit go/queer if you want to participate.

Will you be a part of this?

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.