Recent discussion has made me wonder about what closeted non-heteros want out of their BGLTQ organizations slash communities. Thus, an anonymous forum.
If you’re closeted, what kind of programming would you like to see? Support groups, confidential peer counseling, social events, discussions?
If you’re no longer closeted, did your campus organizations help you come out? How? Could the process have been helped by a stronger organization or community?
UPDATE: I wrote that first portion a little before midnight last night, so I didn’t flesh out my thoughts as well as I could have.
For background, this post comes as a reaction to recent discussion on my college BGLTSA’s open email list, which was prompted by an op-ed in our campus newspaper. Conversation has largely been dominated by out students and has mostly pondered how (or if) the BGLTSA should be better serving the needs of closeted students.
First, to address the article itself, and some of the things that have been said about college postings on Craigslist: Craigslist is by no way a representative sample of, well, anything. Dan Savage said it best on his podcast last week (the week before? I can’t really remember)–people who post to Craigslist often have very specific needs or desires. They’re not the same people showing up at clubs and bars, they’re not necessarily looking for a relationship, and they’re not necessarily going to call you the next night. It’s a self-selecting group serving a very specific purpose, and in the case of M4M and casual encounters (W4W to some extent, though I’d say it’s not nearly as pervasive), that purpose is casual, often anonymous sexual contact.
Now, the “bored at Lamont” and “masc Harvard jock” postings are part of that specific, self-selecting group–but they’re not all real Harvard guys. I know this is shocking. Men and women alike post to Craigslist under assumed identities (the recent Jason Fortuny controversy should serve as a good example) for fun, out of boredom, to protect their own identities, or because they get off on it. Of the remaining posters who are actually men at Harvard, I would guess a significant portion of them don’t actually plan to have a discreet sexual encounter in a Lamont bathroom. (A friend of mine makes a point of answering these ads, and although I suppose it could be in his approach, he’s never ended up hooking up with anybody as a result.) Some of them are posting for the reasons I listed above, and others are probably testing the waters to see what kind of men respond to such advances.
The bottom line? “Masc Harvard guys” are not the same population as closeted Harvard students. There may be overlap, but the two categories aren’t identical by any means.
Now, onto the BGLTSA. I honestly don’t think it should be altering its policies or events in a significant way. Granted, because I came out way before college, I don’t know what the experience of a closeted college student is like other than what I know from newly out women I dated as an undergrad. But when I came out, it was much more important to me to have the support of a network of friends and family than it was to have any kind of organization offering structured events and services. (I’ll admit that I stumbled upon the PFLAG website, but I later had a weird experience with a member of my local chapter that soured me a little on them as a group.) The people I knew who came out early in college depended more on organizations like the first year sexual orientation discussion group and CONTACT than on the BGLTSA.
This is already getting long, but I want to add that this discussion is getting conflated with the same old whining about how no one new comes to BGLTSA events. Closeted students aren’t going to come to BGLTSA events for a variety of reasons, and I think that’s okay. If you’re really disappointed with the scene, do something about it. Get off campus. Make contacts at other schools. Hang out in Boston. Go to Somerville or JP sometime. Ask your queer friends why they don’t “do the BGLTSA.” Create a new group. Run for the board. But do something.