Davidson Must Better Integrate the Queer Community

Stuart Till-

Although there are many complex identities that students seek to discuss and understand on Davidson’s campus, one specific group that needs to be discussed in greater depth is Davidson’s queer community. Davidson’s administration continues to push for a safe and inclusive environment for all queer individuals; however, the student body often forgets about its fellow queer peers. I am not suggesting that students are actively shaming or condemning queer community members; instead, I am arguing that the queer community is simply forgotten.

One’s identity consists of multiple elements, and sexuality or gender identity only contribute a small aspect of a multi-faceted “self ”. However, those aspects of an individual’s identity still influence daily experiences. Organizations such as Queers and Allies (Q&A) provide an open space for proud queer people to express  themselves. Yet many students, who either do not feel comfortable with their identity or desire to remain closeted, may choose not to participate in Q&A. While organizations such as YANASH (You Are Not a Stranger Here) can help provide a space for such closeted individuals, the organization’s commitment to confidentiality make the normalization of queer people less visible on campus. The average student cannot interact with their closeted queer peers and the only way to foster those interactions is for more individuals to come out.

As a gay man who grew up within a small conservative community, the biggest obstacle to my coming out was the language and attitude my family and friends expressed about queer community members. Slurs and slang such as “fagot”, “gross”, and “disgusting” caused me to develop shameful feelings about myself. Although these harsh slurs may not circulate the Davidson campus, language and attitudes used to make light of LGBTQ+ people in close friend groups still cause people to develop shameful and negative thoughts about themselves. For example, certain jokes which imply that queer people are weaker or worse than their straight counterparts have echoed throughout the halls of Belk. Students rush to defend their straightness as if being queer is something to be ashamed of. These homophobic undertones manifest a culture where closeted queer people feel ashamed of who they are. The challenge falls on the Davidson community as a whole and not on those struggling with their identity. Each student must be aware and acknowledge that their hall-mates, teammembers, classmates, or friends may be struggling with a huge part of their identity. Not every queer person fits within stereotypical molds;instead, they have distinct, complex interests, struggles, and experiences within multiple parts of society, and to recognize that allows for individuals to feel more comfortable confiding in those they hold dear.

And so, I further challenge the queer community on campus. Those of us who are out,loud, and proud must remember that there are still those who do not possess our queer zeal. In addition, not every queer person fulfills the liberal archetype. As stated earlier, being queer is only one characteristic of an identity, and not every queer person on campus expresses their queerness in the same manner. To assume that queer students must fit into a pre-designed box causes closeted students on campus to feel isolated from other queer people. In order to enrich Davidson with ideas from queer people, the LGBTQ+ community must strengthen and diversify within Davidson. In order to achieve that, the community needs members from all schools of thought. Queer biology majors, economics majors, athletes, liberals, conservatives,Hispanics, African Americans, Southerners, Northerners, and International students must all find themselves comfortable within our community. In addition, our queer students must continue to engage with others and share their identity to educate those who may not have interacted with a queer person before

Additionally, Davidson’s administration can further improve queer life on campus. Davidson’s faculty and administration continue to offer resources and safety to the LGBTQ+ community, which lays the groundwork for progress to occur. However, continued outreach must occur in order to grow the community on campus. Asking the queer students on campus for perspectives on current programs and ideas for new ones will grow the community as a whole and allow for queer voices to define what may support those in the closet. The best voice, on queer rights, comes from queer students on campus. Additionally, more queer leaders are needed on campus to enrich the other students with a different perspective. One crucial aspect of the college experience is to interact with those different than oneself, and thus creating a more diverse campus with a multifaceted queer community will enrich the Davidson community as a whole.

Although I ask much from the Davidson community, Davidson aspires to produce well-rounded, educated, and tested individuals who will continue to become innovators and leaders within the global society. A part of that international community is the queer community, and students must encounter and engage with it here on campus. We must remember that those around us may be wrestling with their own identity. The Davidson queer community must branch out and engage with those outside the community and accept and invite all members of queer society. Furthermore, Davidson must push for continued research and outreach to enrich their campus with more queer students to manifest a more well-rounded campus. Identity, although unique to each person, still connects people to each other. Share your identity, nobody else has one quite like yours.
Stuart Till ’21 is an undeclared student
from Cary, North Carolina. Contact him
at sttill@davidson.edu.

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