Students Give First-hand Accounts of Homophobia on Campus
The following are word-for-word transcriptions of interviews conducted with Southwestern University students who have experienced homophobia on campus. Edits for the sake of clarity were made and placed in brackets. While the Megaphone is aware that each of these experiences cannot entirely explain or stand for the totality of LGBTQ-student experiences on campus, the writers involved in this project feel it is important to document the feelings, perceptions, and climate according to those who identify as queer.
This project grew out of the feeling of unrest some students felt after the bias-related incident this past October. A number of students felt the situation was a byproduct to a larger problem. As such, each person interviewed was asked two questions:
- What has your experience been like on Southwestern’s campus?
- How has your identity affected your life at school?
Special thanks to writers Vivienne Miller and Aiden Steinle, who helped record and transcribe a number of the interviews included below.
“I guess a very notable example of my experience would be probably the first time I ever went to a frat. I wasn’t even dressed in a way that could be perceived as ‘fem’ or anything. But at the time I was still dating my high-school girlfriend, and we were holding hands and dancing together and stuff, and I then got called ‘dyke.’
“That was something I had never experienced before. When I told my RA about it, she basically gave me sort of a form to fill out. But because I didn’t have [the person’s] name or like grade or anything I felt really helpless.
“I think Greek life, both in the fraternities and sororities, can feel uncomfortable or unsafe– like, it’s on that spectrum for queer people, especially for queer people who are more on the margins or stray away from dominant gender ideals.
“I was really lucky to be in a sorority which is very accepting and positive about the queer identity. But definitely, when I went through recruitment, I didn’t feel comfortable identifying myself as such. And when I finally did, it put the conversation to a complete stop. They sort of said something along the lines of, ‘Wow, awesome, great,’ or something like that. Then they quickly changed the subject.”
“My second year of school at Southwestern, I had to live with an individual who posted several things to the internet about how they hate LGBT people.
“It was stressful and hard because I didn’t feel safe being in my own home. It’s also just hard to know that somebody you’ve spent time with doesn’t like you based on this one thing. I didn’t know that she felt that way until much later.
“I found out she had posted to Snapchat that she hates LGBT people–and this post was made in response to her being called out for some other homophobic things she’d said online.
“It was at this point that I learned she’d also been posting about all of our disagreements on Facebook–or at least most of them–and that she wasn’t okay with who I was, and, yeah.
“I [felt like I] couldn’t go home. I couldn’t be in the same room as her. The way Southwestern is, everybody knew how she felt about me. I had strangers coming up and talking to me about, like, what had happened.
“The university response was frustrating. I was called into a meeting to talk about the situation and I never heard back. I never knew what happened. I was never told that I could fill out a discrimination form online. The people I met with seemed like they cared about what happened, but then nothing came of it. I never felt like I had closure over what happened.
“I study in my dorm most of the time. Sometimes back then I would study in the living room. But I had to stop doing that because I couldn’t be in the same space as her, and she didn’t want me in the same space as her, so studying became a much more stressful thing that I had to do because I couldn’t do what was comfortable.
“I had to do it in distracting places, and in places that I wasn’t comfortable in. I also just lost one of my safe places, one of the places that I could go to decompress, to feel better after a long day, because the place where I slept stopped being a safe place for me.
“It was it was just hard not to have a place that I could take a deep breath and leave all of the rough stuff at the door. Everything came home with me–every, every night. It was also the first time I’ve ever been involved in anything like drama, and because so much of it was posted online, it felt like everybody knew. It was just rough having people want to talk about it or knowing that there were people that weren’t on my side and people that thought that, you know, I was overreacting. It was just hard for all of that to be so public.”
“I had a roommate that, upon telling her that I identify as a lesbian, would constantly talk about the religious reasons why gay sex was a sin. And she would do this basically any time I was in the dorm. She would try to bring it up casually, but it was always very targeted.
“Because of that, I spent a lot of time outside of my dorm, as much as I could. Like, if I was going to Skype my sister who’s also queer, I would go to get a study room. I really tried to still be friends with my roommate even despite [her feelings toward me]. But sophomore year, it just came to such a head. I had to move out because my depression was so bad from everything, that whole environment. I ended up having to move out of my dorm Spring semester because it got so bad.
“I found my current roommate because she was my suitemate [at that time]. She got some of it for being bi, but she didn’t get the full extent of it, because she was still just a suitemate. So [our situation with my roommate] really helped foster that relationship. But any time I still see that first roommate, I get anxiety. I’m always anxious being in the same room as her. It really has affected how I carry myself on campus because there have been several classes where I notice she is on the list of emails, and I will drop out of that class to avoid being in that same space.”
“I like to practice gender nonconformity, and in this case, that means I wear nail polish. I don’t mind going to drag, and I’ll wear nail polish on campus all the time. And because of that I would just, like, get weird looks or strange comments. I can’t remember specific ones. Except for one case where my neighbor told me about his friend who warned me not to wear nail polish around too much because, like, he would punch me. I took that as a joke because he was just talking about people who did that in general. It didn’t really register to me until this year when the recent incident happened.
“I’m more nervous about situations like that now because I was planning on going all out for Dragula this year, and I’m planning on getting a bunch of clothes, maybe even heels for it. And now I’m a little bit more nervous for that. I should also bring up that I’m black and wearing this kind of stuff is very different for, I don’t know, the stereotypes, I guess. And that gets a lot more of attention than other people. So, that kind of makes it more noticeable for me. And it makes me a little bit more nervous about wearing it. It makes me a little bit more nervous in general.
“I’m just a little bit more paranoid around school. I’m a little bit nervous walking about at night. I used to go out on nightly walks and now I don’t do that as much.”
“I feel like I’ve experienced an interesting amount of hate, given where the school is at [sic]. So, my roommate freshman year, one of the first things he said to me was really homophobic. I lived in Ruter – He said something like, “Let’s lock the doors so the fags can’t get in.” I was like, Oh, okay… so this is not a welcoming place, which was strange to me because I had already met a lot of openly gay people. And so that was sort of an eye-opener for me.
“[This] made me realize that there are very distinct groups of people on campus. There [are] people who would be friendly to the gays and people who would not be friendly to the gays. And that’s an interesting line because it’s so hard and fast.
“For me especially, that’s a weird line to tow because I’m also a STEM major. And STEM fields have a lot of guys in them. And that’s weird for me because a lot of those guys are frat guys and are not super welcoming to LGBT people, or even just people of any marginalized community.
In [one of my classes], one of my friends made a joke about ‘all the white guys, hahaha,’ and I got the joke, and another one of my friends who was not Caucasian got the joke, but the rest of the mostly white class did not get the joke. [They didn’t] think it was funny, or even chuckle a little bit.
“It made me realize that I exist in two very different worlds – one where being the other is not as readily accepted. It has made me feel as if I have to exist as two different people, which is weird. Just going from class to class, because I might go from a physics class to an art class, in an art class I can be queer just by the nature of the discipline and also one of the professors makes work about being a queer other, whereas with the science classes I have to not be that person.
“I think that’s a general experience that queer people have on campus – in some spaces, you can be queer, and in others, you can’t. I think that’s not a healthy experience, to pretend to be somebody else.
“Another sort of experience with the university that you might call hate is again, freshman year, two of my friends got in an argument and it escalated. They reported it to the administration as a sort of “hate-related incident” or a sort of discrimination against a minority student and rather than launching an investigation or anything, the administration was just like “oh, we’ll just issue this order of no-contact, the two parties will not speak to each other, and that’s the end of it.” And I just thought that was interesting because they didn’t do anything to address the issue. They just sort of stopped it from being talked about at all, or basically silenced it.
“[This experience] made me realize that the administration doesn’t really care, which sounds cynical but that’s how I feel. I feel like they don’t care. They don’t actually want change or for people to be safe, because the way that one of the people approached the administration was that they were being harassed because of their disability, and they didn’t try to make sure that that was unsafe. They just decided that if the two different people didn’t speak to each other then that person would be safe which is not an okay thing to assume. And so I don’t think that [the administration] is trying to make the campus a safe space for people. They’re just trying to minimize the drama, which is problematic because it allows the drama to just fester and not [get] resolve[d].”
“I’m transmasculine nonbinary and I present masculine most of the time. I have never directly experienced anything really terrible, like, to me personally, but secondhand experiences such as hearing about people using slurs or espousing views that are in direct conflict with my identity saying things like, ‘I don’t believe that trans people exist.’
“One of the most intense things that has happened was that, immediately after the election, I was in a class and we were talking about everything the next day, and I spoke quite candidly about, you know, how this is going to affect my life, and how much it upsets me because of who I am as a gay person and trans person.
“Then another person in the class said, ‘I don’t care,’ and added, ‘The reasons that I voted for him were more important to me than that,’ and my professor asked him to step outside. Other people in the room were agreeing with him and it was upsetting, like, the fact that he felt that comfortable telling me he didn’t care about what I felt at all.
“Sometimes I’ll get misgendered, too. People will use she/her pronouns for me. I mean, it could just be that they are forgetting, but most often I am the only person using unexpected pronouns in that space and it feels really isolating to be, like, alone in that way.
“I stick pretty squarely to spaces that I know and people that I know, which is just partly my personality. But there are definitely places I don’t feel comfortable coming out. I don’t feel comfortable going to a sports game dressed in an openly gender-nonconforming way. Those are just spaces that don’t feel open to me.
“I’ve also been reluctant to use random roommate services when I’ve had to. I was going to have to do that last semester. It was sort of a big deal for me and I was worried about it. Luckily, I didn’t [use random roommate services]. But I will I’m going with them to certain places because I don’t want to expose them to any bad stuff. It’s definitely affected some of my friendships–with people who I felt I couldn’t really be around anymore after they sort of learned my sexual orientation. Or people who had friends that I knew weren’t accepting of my sexual orientation. It’s just like, I don’t know why you feel okay hanging out with that person. That makes me a little scared of you, too.”
If you were directly targeted or affected by hate at any point in your time as a student at Southwestern and would like to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org