Confronting the fear of coming out
by Brooks Fleet; illustrations by Rover
Well, there aren’t enough [gay] guys on campus, I can tell you that much,” sophomore Austin Lukondi said. We’re sitting in my house trying to figure out where all the gays are. Or, in the case of Colorado College, where all the bi/masc/questioning discreet men are. On a campus that idolizes a bizzaro outdoors hippie masculinity, the word “gay” has apparently become inherently feminine, which is to say—bad. I do not mean to undermine the struggle that a lot of men face to accept and take pride in their sexuality, but the fact that so many of us are scared to be out as gay on campus speaks to the discouraging nature of our little bubble.
Maybe we think that gay kids aren’t supposed to like hiking and camping or smoking weed and watching sports. “I feel like there is some sort of baggage that comes with being out—a closeted man tends to be afraid of how other people’s perceptions change [if] they come out. There are definitely some stereotypes out there, but CC kids tend to take you for who you are. I don’t think CC is the place where you’d be judged and dismissed for being gay,” alum Michal Varga said. It is certainly daunting to imagine coming out to your friends and changing the friendship dynamic when you do not feel like you’d fit in with us gays who go to pride festivals. But everyone is different, and you don’t have to like glitter to be gay. In my opinion, the best way to become more comfortable with yourself is to talk to other people who have been through the coming out process. It is confusing to try and figure out your sexuality on your own. You do not have to come out publically before you can come to QCC meetings or Equal or Gay Brunch (by the way, Gay Brunch is at my house every Sunday at 10 a.m. and if you want to find out where, just email me). We need help creating these spaces on campus where any type of man is welcome and does not feel uncomfortable being himself. We need a greater diversity of gay men for this to happen on campus. Almost every man I interviewed said we needed more safe spaces. Queer men here feel alone without a community of “gaybros”—a group of men “interested in guy stuff like sports, video games, military issues, grilling, knives, gear, working out, gadgets, tech, etc.” At a certain point, we have to realize that coming out and seeking each other’s support is the only way to create a more intimate community.
Senior Stanley Carson posits that guys do not want to come out here because “they don’t realize that there really is a presence of other gay guys here.” It is an interesting contradiction at CC that out gay men don’t seem to feel any direct homophobia on campus but, to me, we all feared that everything would change when we came out and the homophobia would suddenly reveal itself. That just isn’t the case. In reality, it is kind of anticlimactic and perversely disappointing when you come out and everyone else seems unfazed. CC is more hospitable than we think.
“I would also like to urge those who are afraid to come out as gay/queer/whatever to seriously consider the benefits,” Carson said, “I felt such a large burden lifted from my life when I no longer had anything to hide. Many of my friendships grew stronger and more intimate, as I was no longer afraid of someone finding out. Other than that, nothing really changed. The transition was surprisingly painless.”
Varga agreed, saying, “I don’t think my sexual orientation affected my CC experience much, or at all. If anything, it was easy to be out; I could talk about my sexuality freely in class and around my peers without feeling threatened in any way.”
“At worst, being gay at CC is a state of mild sexual frustration,” Carson continued, but “coming from rural North Carolina, I find that my sexual identity is more than just accepted here, it is supported.” Stanley and I have similar backgrounds; I come from a conservative area in Texas. I just assumed when I decided to come to a liberal arts college that I’d be surrounded by queer people à la “The Rules of Attraction.” But I spent most of my freshman year hanging out with a bunch of allies and looking for the invisible gay man everyone supported so much. At CC, the word “gay” seemed more like a mythical term than a literal descriptor of a group of people on campus.
It is not true that there aren’t enough gay men on campus. The truth is that we feel like we’ve been discouraged to come out and be proud. Gay/questioning men: It is safe to come out at CC. We already have the community to support us and although it’s an intimate institution, we have the capacity to create an intimate gay community within CC.
As much as I am proud of being gay, I don’t really want to be called “Gay Brooks” ever again because sometimes I feel like the token gay kid. It’s time we all come out, get together, and form a little gay mafia with more support and less sexual frustration for everyone.