Photo Credits – Tyger Williams via The Philadelphia Inquirer
If you’re comfortably out, this is for you. If you’re “in the closet” and scared out of your mind starting this new chapter of life, this is for you. Coming out used to be this radical act of courage and self-liberation for LGBTQ+ people. Now, it is often something others feel owed. Although I started college “out,” I was overwhelmed by the constant anxiety of coming out. Each burst of light I felt in making new friends was shadowed by this anxious reminder that I might not be accepted when I showed who I really was.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to disclose that information before you’re ready, or ever. The new woke standard of expecting queer folks to disclose their pronouns or sexuality under the guise of ‘allyship’ is violent. Your identity is valid regardless of whether you have a name for it and tell others, or not. It is not allyship to force or pressure others to disclose their pronouns, sexuality or identity under the guise of solidarity. As humans, we are all able to live in ways that make us feel comfortable and authentic with no disclaimers or explanations needed.
Now whether you’re Type-A fruity with cuffed jeans, dyed hair, pronoun pins on your back pack (me) or not, we are all living this life just trying to feel safe. A large part of being involved and feeling included on campus stems from feeling safe! So where are the safe spaces?
Clubs and organizations are a great place to start. Students can find a list of all official groups on campus on RamConnect, which makes it easy to find meeting times and sign up for email lists. Sexuality and Gender Alliance, Gender Studies Club, NAMI On Campus and Gen. Action are all examples of inclusive clubs offered weekly on campus (plus your allies at The Quad).
The Center for Trans and Queer Advocacy and The Center for Women and Gender Equity are West Chester University’s go-to for assistance or resources. The Center for Trans and Queer Advocacy also offers a pluthera of trainings and informational sessions including: Queer Basics, Intersectionality in Practice and Trans Advocacy.
Now that the formalities have been taken care of, let’s get to the secrets you may not know your first semester on campus, the bathroom situations. We don’t need to get into the absolute blatant lack of gender neutral bathrooms on campus. Instead, we can focus on single occupancy, gender neutral-esque bathrooms such as: the single shower on the 1st floor of the Student Rec, the main floor of FGH Library and the 3rd floor of Anderson Hall.
Dead name keeping you down? Let’s do something about it. “The University has established this policy that allows preferred first names to appear in select University systems and records, even if individuals have not changed their legal names.” Sooo how do you do that? Contact Soozie Davidson at Center for Trans and Queer Advocacy for assistance! After you submit the request, a student’s “preferred name” (let’s ignore how problematic it is to call a name change a preferred name) will show up on their Student ID, email name, phone directory, class roster, diplomas, etc.
Queer history session anyone? Bayard Rustin, West Chester born and raised gay icon, not only has a campus park named in his honor, but also a scholarship and academic program RUCCAS. In honor of him and all the revolutionaries who paved the way for us, just by being them, be loud and be proud. College is the time to explore who you are and who you could be.
Outside of the clubs and organizations mentioned, there are many students and staff who work everyday to provide an inclusive learning experience for LGBTQ+ students. Safe spaces or queer spaces are not limited to specifically labeled groups. Some of the most accepting and encouraging professors and friends I’ve found have come from my willingness to be authentic and vulnerable. The next few years will bring the typical anxieties all students face, from exams to course scheduling and societal pressures, but it will also bring with it new, real friendships and new, real understandings about yourself. There is beauty and peace to be found in the chaos of it all. Reach out for help when you need it, and remember that you were strong enough to get this far.
A Queer Senior
Emily Hart is a fourth-year English major with a minor in Youth Empowerment and Urban Studies. EH943163@wcupa.edu.