OKAY SOMEONE HAS TO SAY IT: We All Take Enormous Advantage Of The Comfort Of Grinnell’s Queer Bubble. I often find myself complaining about queer issues on campus and nitpicking every social situation to death, because I forget just exactly how lucky I am to be a queer person and have a space like Grinnell College.
The easiest place to be reminded of this privilege is home. I am from a largely progressive, liberal New York suburb, so I can’t even claim to be a queer person from an oppressive conservative small town. Despite my hometown’s claim to liberalism, the progressiveness of where I live is very shallow; it is the kind of place where you will often hear people exclaim, “Oh, well I love gay guys!” or “my work uniform makes me look like a lesbian,” two things I have heard out of the mouths of my Hillary-lovin’ climate-savin’ best friends from high school. Things that many of us wouldn’t imagine saying or doing because they are so clearly offensive to us are being thrown around every day life in pretty much everywhere outside our bubble. There is an enormous spectrum of liberalism that is often forgotten after a few weeks in the Grinnell Bubble.
Over winter break, I found myself instinctively conforming to the heteronormativity that surrounded me. I wore more “straight girl” clothing and makeup, which is not part of my daily presentation at school. I stopped correcting my friends when they assumed male pronouns for people I was interested in. I had to explain the term queer to each of my friends every time I brought it up. For the first couple of weeks I asserted that these microaggressions were out to get me and vented to my queer-liberal-arts-hippie-safe-haven-friends ™ but I soon came to grow comfortable in the discreetly and politely homophobic world I had grown up in.
Observing my own transition from anger to semi-comfort in my hometown surrounded by people I have loved and who have loved me my entire life, has given me a new perspective on the liberal spectrum. Junot Díaz made a great point in his talk this week about acknowledging that other people are on all different levels of progressiveness. Diaz spoke about the lack of communication that is accompanied with the insistence to condemn those who aren’t as “politically correct” as we are. In order to make progress we must accept others who are on different levels instead of pushing them farther away. The only way we are going to make a sufficient difference is by teaming up with each other. Arriving back on campus gave me a sense of relief in knowing that my clothing called “bizarre” at home or my stories about women deemed “classic Julia stories,” by my high school friends would be accepted without second thought and be part of the Grinnell mainstream.
This relief came with a sense of need for awareness about my privilege to have this space as a queer person. For every comment I make about how a campus survey doesn’t provide inclusive gender options, I will think about how lucky I am to be in the situation I’m in. It’s not about pulling back on the rhetoric of “how can we make this place better,” it’s about doing that while acknowledging what we have.