Opinions, Column

Being LGBTQ on Campus

For any queer student at BC, the homophobic slur “No F*gs,” which was posted on the Mod parking lot sign last Saturday, is a harsh but unsurprising reminder of what it’s like to be LGBTQ at Boston College. Homophobic and derogatory comments like “That’s so gay” and “F*ggot” have somehow found their place in the lexicons of many BC students who seem to completely disregard the effect these words have on many of our students. Perhaps the vitriol of public discourse surrounding the presidential election, especially from candidates like Donald Trump, has somehow convinced members of the BC community that it’s now socially acceptable to insult and denigrate marginalized communities when they’re dealing with their own frustrations and fears. Regardless of the cause of this open display of bigotry, the real concern moving forward is how the University will choose to respond. My unfortunate prediction is that its response will be severely inadequate.

As an openly gay junior involved in queer groups on campus and the Greater Boston area, I didn’t become deeply frightened or depressed when I saw the sign posting on Saturday. I have grown comfortable in my skin and developed confidence through the supportive forces in my life to overcome my exposure to homophobia and heteronormativity. Instead, seeing that horrible slur made me furious, more than anything. Furious because there are plenty of students who are very vulnerable and deeply hurt by the use of this hateful term, and I would’ve included myself in that group not very long ago. Freshman year was painful. I was still questioning my sexuality and building up the courage to come out, yet wasn’t sure if this was a place I could feel comfortable doing it. It wasn’t long into my first semester that the University temporarily cancelled Queer Peers (a queer educational program in residence halls) and I had already become accustomed to many of my peers frequently using the homophobic “f-word.” When I finally mustered the bravery to confront some of them about using that word, I was told, “You’re not gay, so you shouldn’t be offended by us saying f*ggot.” I felt like I had moved backward from my public high school in Minnesota, where people respected each other’s identities, or were at least disciplined when they didn’t. I was convinced that this was not the place for me, and not the place I could feel comfortable, or even safe, being myself.

So, yes, I’m mad. I’m mad that someone’s utter disregard and prejudice toward an entire community inevitably will cause students just like me when I was a freshman to remain in the closet and feel remorse and disdain for simply being themselves. But I’m also mad that BC will allow this climate of homophobia to persist. I’m mad that the administration won’t even consider the establishment of an LGBTQ+ resource center that can provide a permanent safe space for queer and questioning students to escape the homophobia and heteronormativity that pervades our campus. I’m mad that we can’t have an open discussion surrounding queer health and wellness without being censored by stringent administrative guidelines to ensure we don’t talk about sexual health, even though it’s obviously a critical element of queer health. It’s ridiculous that the LGBTQ community still can’t even hold a “dance,” but instead has to use the acceptable nomenclature “gala,” so that it doesn’t imply queer people are dancing together, or doing anything sexual that would occur at any other student organization’s “dance.” The list of prejudicial treatment toward the LGBTQ community goes on and on.

If you’re a gay student at BC, how do you respond to these kinds of administrative actions? The lack of administrative support made my personal journey to acceptance and pride much more difficult than it needed to be. And my experience doesn’t even touch upon the added strife that comes with being genderqueer or a queer person of color at this institution. Queer people have fought a long and arduous battle for our rights to be respected as equals, and these rights cannot be squandered upon our entering the University. The administration needs to utilize its role in shaping the campus climate and take a stand against discrimination in all of its forms. Currently, the University is failing and needs to step up to the plate, because it will be ultimately responsible for the fallout of our homophobic campus culture. So I ask the BC administration: will you stand up to bigotry and oppression, or ignore the issue and accept the status quo? Make the choice, because we’re tired of waiting.

Featured Image by Abby Paulson / Heights Editor

September 21, 2016

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