Thursday, March 29, 2012

out of the closet

In light of this week’s readings that talk about the closet and queer theory, I have been thinking a lot about my own life and my experiences with my roommate, who we will refer to as Kate. I have known Kate since the beginning of freshman year, and this semester she came out to me as a lesbian. We were talking in class about whether or not people “owe” it to us to come out, especially as close friends. In Kate’s situation she wasn’t really hiding anything for me—she didn’t come to the realization that she was a lesbian until Christmas break. Though I would not say she “owed” it to me to tell me, per se, coming out of the closet to me is a way of saying “I trust you, and I want you to know about me fully.” Such trust is essential to any strong relationship, so perhaps it is vital to know if a close friend is a lesbian. As for personal and social relationships, knowing Kate’s sexuality has actually been helpful for the both of us. We are still both perfectly comfortable walking around in our towels and changing in the same room (despite our jokes about this in class today, it really does happen!), but now I know better than to drag her to the dance floor with me when she would rather dance with new girls, and she can tell me straight up, “Yeah, I’m going to quirl movie night tonight.”  Translation: quirl=queer girl. This fits in nicely with our discussion of whether or not people actually use the word “queer,” and whether or not this has a positive connotation. In Kate’s case it is important to note the distinction of queer girl movie night. I’m not sure if Kate and her friends did this intentionally, but it shows the need to distinguish beyond the umbrella term of “queer” to establish that these particular queers are lesbians.
Since Kate came out to me, I have learned a lot more about LGBTQ culture here at Notre Dame. I became an ally last year, yet I still went on with my heteronormative lifestyle. I didn’t personally have anyone come out to me, and I didn’t really know what all of the PSA and Core Council events were about. Now I feel like I’ve been introduced into a whole new culture. Though I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, I never really thought about the social life of LGBTQ students here at Notre Dame, and how different/difficult it can be when trying to meet new people. One thing I’ve learned about is the use of technology and websites to meet new people. Kate actually met a friend using a website, and she and her friend have completely hit it off. I will always love Kate and be her friend, but because I am straight I will never be able to really understand what it is like to be in her position. I am so happy that she has embraced her identity and is able to connect with other people, both on and off campus, who are able to understand her in this way. Another thing that definitely rang true when reading Sedgwick is that coming out of the closet is not a one-time thing. This is especially true in college, when you are meeting new people all the time and are automatically back in the closet you state otherwise. It’s not like there is anything about Kate that screams “I am a lesbian!” Though it makes sense in hindsight, I was actually very surprised when Kate told me. Kate is definitely not out to everyone. Sometimes we talk about conversations with other people or mention a situation, and she’s is like, “Wait, does she know or not?” At the same time, however, I don’t think everyone needs to know that Kate is a lesbian. She is not intentionally hiding it from people, but it just doesn’t really come up in casual conversation with, say, professors or girls who live down the hall. And you know what, it doesn’t really affect people one way or the other whether or not they know Kate is a lesbian. The way I see it, the fact that Kate is a lesbian is an important part of her identity that should be shared with those she cares about, as should other important characteristics. But people who are not a big part of her life do not need to know whether or not Kate is a lesbian, just like they don’t need to know whether or not she’s a vegetarian, has a rocky relationship with her brother, or if she brushes her teeth every night before bed.    

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