Before I went to college, I thought I knew a lot, but I actually didn’t know anything. Now I know a bit more (but still not much at all). Here are five things I wish someone had told me before I started college as a bright-eyed baby gay.
1. No one cares about your sexuality (unless they want to sleep with you)
In high school, queer sexuality was kind of a big deal. I remember gossiping with people about the statistically likely 5-or-so people in our grade who were gay — and when I came out, I’m pretty sure that news traveled. I kind of thought the same thing would happen in college. I came out to a few people and then assumed the whole school knew (or at least the freshmen). LOL. My being a lesbian was not interesting gossip at all, and I had to come out again and again and again. Seriously, people don’t care unless they want to have sex with you, in which case they only care about whether or not you’re attracted to them.
2. Coming out is awkward
Maybe you’re really cool and not awkward and have social skills, but I definitely didn’t as a freshman, and so coming out was generally pretty uncomfortable. Whether you want to do it subtly (“Oh my ex-girlfriend has the same lamp!”) or explicitly and casually (“By the way, guys, I’m bisexual. Where’s the dining hall again?”) or explicitly and formally (“I’ve sat you all down to tell you I’m a lesbian”), that’s totally your choice, but it’s going to be awkward.
But it’s not your fault, because everything freshmen do is awkward.
3. Being a queer freshman is kind of like going through seventh grade and freshman year of college at the same time
I have a friend who refers to it as “gay puberty.” Especially if you weren’t out in high school (or were the only gay kid at your school), freshman year is kind of like seventh grade. You’re dealing with crushes who might like you back (omg) who might want to date you (omg) for the first time, but you are also getting drunk and having sex with them, which is a decidedly #college way to go about things. It’s confusing and will probably lead to some embarrassing stories, but that’s what freshman year is for.
4. Get help when it might be helpful
This is probably the most general piece of advice on here (so straight people pay attention too!): Don’t be afraid to get help if you’re struggling on anything. I’m kind of unusual in that within two weeks of arriving on campus I had booked myself an appointment with a therapist at Yale Health to deal with my disordered eating, but I definitely had a hard time reaching out for help in other ways. See a therapist if you want to. (Everyone should be in therapy.) (LGBT people also have higher rates of mental illness so we should definitely be in therapy.) Ask upperclassmen questions. Use all of the resources!
Also, I promise at some point freshman year you’re going to think that everyone else knows what they’re doing and you’re the only one who doesn’t have their shit together. That won’t be true! No one knows what they’re doing freshman year! Ask other freshmen for help, and admit when you’re struggling. I promise you’ll be better off for it.
5. Don’t be afraid to get involved
At the beginning of freshman year, I was determined not to let being gay define me, so I was really selective about how many LGBT events I went to or clubs I joined or friends I had. I wanted to be “normal” (with my sexuality being only a small part of my identity) and I know a lot of people who felt that way freshman year too. That’s a totally legitimate attitude to have, but it’s also super boring. What is “normal” anyway? If you think a club or event sounds cool, go for it. Don’t be afraid to let your queerness become a bigger part of your identity if that’s what makes you happy. Having a large circle of queer friends means so much to me now, and I wish I hadn’t been afraid to cultivate one earlier.
6. Colleges are great, but we need to work more to make them better
Unless you’re going to Liberty or something (in which case, I just did a whole report on LGBT students at conservative Christian colleges, so hit me up!), your school will have an Office of LGBT Resources type thing, at least one LGBT club, and a bunch more out students than there were at your high school. You’re probably going to think it’s kind of magical and perfect for a while. Or maybe you’re not quite as naïve and/or easily distracted by attractive queer women as I am.
But even at Yale, the gay Ivy (sorry, Brown, I know you want that title), we have so many things we need to work on. Like, we had to fight super hard to get gender-neutral housing for juniors this year, which is honestly just embarrassing. So, yeah. College is awesome, but let’s remember we have work to do.
But also! College is awesome. And it’s scary and wonderful and full of people with lots of different genders and sexual orientations, and y’all should be excited.
Got a question? Got your own advice to give? Leave it in the comments!
Katie Chockley (Yale ’14) is a queer feminist athlete who only drank beer out of a shoe that one time. Read her other articles here!