Last Saturday, I was on a walk with my friend. It was a nice night out. We had just eaten ramen in Newton Centre and were walking to campus with ice cream cones in our hands. We were enjoying the weather, as it was one of the first warm nights after a long winter. On the same walk, two people in two separate cars called us f****ts.
It was one night, one 20-minute walk, and two incidents of hate speech.
At first, it didn’t affect me too much. I felt fine. It happened, it was over, and I could forget about it. After a few moments of reflection, I realized my lack of initial care was telling. Not being fazed by having been called the f-slur twice in the same day—let alone in the same hour—showed me how calloused I was to situations like this.
I grew up being called gay all the time. My friends were mainly girls, and I had “feminine” interests. I grew up thinking being called gay was an insult, but this isn’t about my upbringing. After years of maturation, self-discovery, and cultural progression (or so I believed), being called gay turned from an insult to an objective fact about someone’s romantic and sexual preferences. But these incidents weren’t objective facts about my or my friend’s sexual orientation. The cowardly swines threw these words like insulting daggers. They knew what they were doing. They were charged. They were repressive.
I told some of my friends about these incidents with a plastered smile on my face. I chuckled. I covered my pain with, “No, it’s totally fine.” But it wasn’t fine. The smiles felt uncomfortable. They felt disingenuous. The smiles did not symbolize any form of happiness about the situation. They symbolized my fear of facing my own pain. So, I shied away from and hid the pain—until I couldn’t.
The next Monday night, I reflected on my day and realized that as the day went on, I felt heavier, I felt lost, and I felt muzzled. The remembrance of the incidents loomed for longer than I had expected. They felt maliciously tucked into my backpack, weighing down my back and my mind. The day went on, and the weight increased. I was in my bed—I was comfortable. But I had never been more mentally uncomfortable in my life.
I was and am beyond grateful for my friends’ sympathy and willingness to talk about it with me. But it wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to bombard them with my trauma. I needed to talk to someone removed from my daily life. I wanted to enter into someone’s office, talk about my experiences, hear their trained advice, leave their office, and walk around for the rest of my day without the hate speech echoing in my ears. But I knew that wasn’t an option at Boston College. I know there are broad services on campus, such as University Counseling Services, but a resource with a blanketed scope is not as helpful as a more acute one. I needed someone with a specific interest in LGBTQ+ issues who has heard and dealt with similar stories to mine.
So, I sat in bed, and I spiraled.
How will I get over this? Am I going to revert back to my insecurity of being in the LGBTQ+ community? Is it time for me to relapse?
I was terrified. Last year, I hadn’t told anyone I was bisexual. Only this past August did I start telling people at BC—and only at BC—that I am bisexual. Quite frankly, it was life-changing. I’ve begun to feel more safe and valid and secure in my skin. And I’m terrified of reverting back to the afraid, insecure, unsure, intimidated, closeted person I used to be. Understanding and embracing my identity has been a difficult cycle my entire life, an uneasy ebb and flow—but it shouldn’t be that way. I shouldn’t fear a “relapse” as if my sexual orientation is something I need to fight off. It should be a continuous upward trajectory of personal growth.
I feared all of this because there is no LGBTQ+ resource center on campus. I needed an accessible professional on campus to whom I could speak. Without this center, I’m terrified that I’ll deal with this all on my own and lose all the progress I have made. At the BC information session I attended as a senior in high school, the speaker told us that we would be wasting our money on BC if we walk out the same person as we were when we walked in. If this keeps happening without the help of trained individuals, I can confidently say my parents wasted their money.
In theory, I could do some research and find an off-campus resource, but as a college student with extracurriculars, I should not have to jump through obstacles just to find a professional who can help me cope. We have enough on our agendas each day, and LGBTQ+ students should not be burdened with the responsibility of finding a resource specific to our identity on our own.
I resolved to try to sleep it off. I woke up the next day, and I still felt simultaneously empty yet full of sadness. The pain had sunk in, and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know whether to continue trying to forget about it or to cry or to let the feelings fester. But I decided to write—so thanks, The Heights.
I love BC. But it feels like BC does not love me. Part of me feels narcissistic saying that, but that’s the root of the issue. I should not feel narcissistic wanting an on-campus, accessible center to go to so I can cope with being called a charged, oppressive slur.
It happened off campus from strangers who do not know me. As someone who is openly bisexual on BC’s campus, I now walk around afraid it’ll happen again. Who’s to say people within a community where my sexuality is open won’t do the same? By not having an LGBTQ+ resource center on campus and continually ignoring students’ experiences, BC shows its students it’s okay to neglect LGBTQ+ students, their rights, their comfort, and their validity. For instance, when the University initially decided to throw LGBTQ+ resources under the wing of Thea Bowman AHANA Intercultural Center, I didn’t feel heard. I didn’t feel understood. I felt even more ignored. Not every LGBTQ+ student is within the AHANA+ community. While the University has since paused these plans, it still felt like the University was looking for an easy solution to our years of pleas, and we were disregarded.
My goal is not to blame BC for my experiencing the homophobic slurs. My goal is to show that when I came back to BC, I hoped to feel at home. I wanted to come back to campus and be with people who support and love me, which I did. My friends expressed their sorrows and lent their shoulders, but I didn’t feel quite at home. I didn’t feel comforted by BC. BC is my home, and it promised me it would feel like it. But it doesn’t.
I hope from now on, whenever BC promotes its “men and women for others” mantra, it includes an asterisk. I hope that asterisk indicates LGBTQ+ individuals are not included.
So, BC, it’s time to throw away the false excuses, lofty justifications, and hateful disregards. Establish an LGBTQ+ resource center.