NASCAR and Rainbows
My first year at Bates, it took me over a month to figure out my mailbox combination. After a few days, the people in the mailroom began to recognize me, and I stopped asking them to open it for me. So every day I would devote several minutes to conquering that smug little lock, standing on my tiptoes and spinning the little knob to exactly the right numbers, over and over, until I became aware of the crowd waiting to get to their mailboxes, and I would slink away, defeated.
One day, so early in the semester that classes hadn’t even started, I was just turning away from my mailbox, unsuccessful again, when I locked eyes with someone. And every muscle in my body gave a collective “urk.” I have no idea who it was, just that it was a girl, that my stomach felt the need to spontaneously do a little dance, and that my mind thought that was strange.
That evening we gathered in the chapel for the last of the first-year orientation speakers. I don’t remember much of the presentation, my mind was much too busy tying itself in knots. First of all, were we really getting a presentation on how it’s okay to be gay? And why weren’t any of the kids rolling their eyes and snickering? Second of all, well, I definitely wasn’t at Catholic school anymore. Apparently being queer was no big deal here. Third of all was that pesky moment in the mailroom, and years of pesky moments like it. Fourth of all was that I kept fidgeting with my high school ring, and it made a considerable amount of noise whenever I dropped it and it rolled across the aisle.
And did nobody else find it ironic that we were in a chapel?
That night I spent a long time sitting by the puddle. I wasn’t queer. No. I had explanations for this. I was a hypochondriac - of course I was certain I was queer. Plus, deciding I was queer would give me a place to fit in in this big scary college world, an already existing group I could just join.
My subconscious said “yeah, but….” a lot.
I suppose my subconscious had always known I was queer and had been making symbolic actions for years, jumping up and down and yelling at my conscious, which covered its eyes and wore earplugs. I had rainbow laces in my shoes, a rainbow patch on my bag, and I could remember exactly where I was when I heard that Massachusetts legalized gay marriage. I was on a queer email listserve for years, because, well, I was liberal, and of course I supported gay rights.
I couldn’t be queer, my conscious informed my subconscious. Not in my “Mom, Dad, 2.5 kids, and a dog” suburb, not in my Catholic high school, not with all my straight friends. Besides, all the queer people I had met before were queer just to spite people or because they really liked living those stereotypes. And I much preferred jewelry, kittens, and glitter to power tools, unattractive haircuts, and any sort of pleated clothing. Plus, I was much too quiet to spite people that boldly. But obviously, as always, the stereotypes weren’t true.
A couple days later I signed up for OUTfront at the activities fair. To be more honest, I followed a strategic plan, involving working my way down the line of tables, signing up blindly for everything in my path, and just “happening upon” the OUTfront table, and signing up with a “why the hell not” flair. My flair died, however, and I frantically scribbled my name, jammed my fists into my pockets, and speed-walked back to my dorm. If somebody from OUTfront had attempted a “hello” I probably would have passed out on the spot.
My roommate, an excited new ally who had actually talked to the harmless OUTfront kids, had all the handouts, which I poured over when she went to class. In October, on the last day of Coming Out Week, I came out to her. Via Instant Messenger. While we were both in our room. I heard the IM window bleep, and then I heard her turn around in her chair.
“You’re queer? Seriously?”
I spun around, looking sheepish.
“You could have just told me, dork.” She rolled her eyes and laughed.
I’ve only had to come out to a few people. Most people at Bates seemed to just kinda know, and it didn’t faze them in the least. It’s a strange thing, really, this coming out business. It’s something so intrinsic to your character, but something so everyday that it seems silly to have such a serious, I’m-letting-you-in-on-a-big-secret, heart-to-heart about it.
It’d be like if I pulled my friends aside, one by one, and awkwardly admitted to them that I liked NASCAR. I grew up being told that I was a basketball fan, I’d watched endless games, trying to find one team I thought was at least a bit interesting, but really, deep down, I hoped one day to find the perfect racecar, and drive off into the sunset with it. Can you imagine the awkward silence?
(Except that I don’t understand or appreciate NASCAR, and unlike being queer, liking NASCAR might indicate some sort of mental illness.)
So if you think you might be queer, well, congrats. And if you think that of course you’re not queer, you’ve seen Queer Eye for the Straight Guy or the L Word, and you’re nothing like those people, well, most queer people are nothing like them. Unfortunately, there’s no test to determine whether or not you’re queer, it’s just something you have to figure out for yourself. Take your time, think about it. And anyone, queer, questioning, or straight, is always welcome to come to OUTfront meetings, or email any of us officers.
- Erin Reed ‘08
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ŠOUTfront 2006 | design by jemufo