December 6, 2013
Being Queer at UW
Do you feel comfortable being queer at UW? I’m just wondering because I visited this fall and I would love to go to an accepting college and escape what seems like the only homophobic area in California. Also, thanks so much for this blog, it really helps.
Honestly, I really do. It’s hard for me to tell if this is a product of luck or if this is the overall climate of the campus, but I have had an almost exclusively amazing experience being queer. At the beginning of my time here, I went to two different events hosted by the Q Center: an open house and a welcome luncheon. I’m a really shy person so it’s not like I necessarily thrived and immediately made a ton of friends BUT some of the first faces I saw on campus outside of my dorm were queer faces, and there were a lot of them. If you do come here, I really recommend hitting up the things we put on during Dawg Daze (a week long string of stuff on campus for newcomers to get used to the place and have fun and etc). We did some info sessions this year and within the space of three different hour long get-togethers we had organized new clubs, people had found common interests (there were a LOT of people into roller derby at the first one), etc., and it was really cool to watch everyone mesh and figure their stuff out.
I took advantage of natl. coming out day last year to make a big ol’ heartfelt post on Facebook about my queer identity, and though I was by no means “in the closet” it was the first time I was really articulating it to EVERYONE in my life, not just the people I’m very close to. I lived in the Honors community housing, which was really amazing for a lot of reasons, and even though I hadn’t really made any deep connections at that point, over thirty people from my floor liked the post and affirmed my identities and were so unbelievably supportive in the way that I needed it most: casually.
My worst experience was, ironically enough, in a class focused on oppressed groups and their representation in Hollywood. I had to do a group final project on heteronormativity and about half of my group was so overwhelmingly homophobic and transphobic it was a real challenge to get through the class. I regret not talking to my teacher about it because I know they would have done something (which I’m about to follow up on), but I did at least find solace in the other half of the group, who were incredibly supportive and kind. The group was really heavily polarized and it’s not something I want to experience again.
That said, one of the best experiences I’ve had here was this past quarter, in my Psych 101 class with Kevin King. I was definitely not the most committed person to the class; for the first half of the quarter I sat in the near back and texted my friends instead of actually paying attention to what he was teaching and what I could learn from it. There came a point where he did an activity where students would first click in that they were male or female and then participate in an onscreen poll. It made me incredibly uncomfortable, and I emailed him about it the second I had a chance. Not only did he respond immediately, empathetically, and graciously, but he then worked with me over the course of a few emails to figure out how he could change the way he talked about certain things to make them more queer friendly.
In the end I got him to start using phrases like “assigned sex” and the like, and it significantly improved my experience in the class. I started sitting about four rows from the front, my grades shot up, I was getting more out of the class, etc. I later introduced myself to him in person and I began to make a point of it to approach him after class to talk about a few of the issues he touched on in a more intersectional lens, which doesn’t really get to happen in the context of a 101 class. It was a really incredible experience for me! From this all I can say is I highly recommend talking to a professor if something rubs you the wrong way, even if it’s a professor with 400+ students per lecture. It’s worth your time, and there’s a lot of support to be found on campus; luckily the support isn’t hard to find.
I’m glad that this blog has provided something for you, and I’m happy to help! Thank you for keeping up with it. If you end up choosing the UW, we’ll be lucky to have you.