Oh look! They're holding hands; let's stare at them.
A typical high school hallway of giddy, giggling girls? Not quite. This is what many couples face every day of their lives, long after they've emptied their lockers. And before this semester, a level of conspicuousness to which I had yet been exposed…
“Do you wanna dance?”
A simple enough question, but for one of few out students on campus, one packed with consequences. It was nine o’clock on a Friday night in early September, and a large crowd had gathered outside the Chapel for Salsa on the Steps. Gorged with dinner from Bali Hai, I was ready to dance my butt off. Or so I thought. But to be perfectly honest, I was quite terrified. Outside the safety of Vespa or Thrive (if you keep an eye on your drink), I wasn’t sure how ready I was display my sexuality for everyone to see, both friend and stranger alike.
But I took his hand. And we started dancing. And… nothing happened. No thunder from the sky, no gasps of abhorred shock. Someone from the event started taking pictures, but despite the initial racing of my heart, I didn’t mind it that much. As I left the event my mind kept drifting back to that moment, a moment that I recognized as a step forward in my coming out process. And as the week wore on, I grew more and more daring in expressing and affirming myself: holding hands, cuddling on the quad, kissing. Yes, kissing.
This is the part where I could either write a gumdrop fairy tale of how surprisingly accepting the campus can be of LGBT couples, or tear down an uplifting story with harsh realities of glares, scoffs, and feelings of scrutiny under a microscope that is Duke social life. The truth is, both scenarios exist. We’re only as open as we show ourselves to be, and we all come from different walks of life (ulgh, literary clichés). For some, that means finding a welcoming environment; for others, a bitter de-masking of false pretenses. As far as I’m concerned, the responsibility lies in the individual. You ultimately decide what world you want to live in, and your inaction can speak just as loudly as what you do decide to instigate. For me, that meant taking a risk, hoping I wouldn’t become a pariah by shoving my “homo agenda” in everyone’s face. And don’t I have that right? Don’t we all reserve the right to express our love freely without judgment from others—or, in a more practical state of mind, without too much vocal judgment from others? I believe so, and I hope you do to.
So don’t be afraid. Take the next step. Then another. And another. Soon, you’ll find we’re all marching in support with you.