July 13, 2011

The Exceedingly Enthralling Adventures of Jennifer: Part the First

This post is going to be a little bit different from previous Wednesday posts. I said in my very first post that I would be sharing some of my story with you in addition to putting up the WOMYN Wednesday polls. (You should totally take them and share them with your friends, by the way!)

I thought I would tell you one of my coming-out stories. As I’m sure you know, coming out can be a huge and drawn-out process, as well as an uncomfortable or frightening experience. This particular coming-out experience happened at the beginning of last Fall.

I live in the Wellness Community, in Crowell G. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, we’re a substance-free community that focuses on mindful, healthy living. It’s a great mix of people of all faith traditions, backgrounds, majors, personality types, etc. As part of an effort to build a stronger sense of community, our RC, Laura Kirkland, had decided that we would all go on a mandatory, day-long retreat to Camp New Hope. I was very nervous about it for many reasons: I’m pretty shy, so large groups of people make me nervous, and I generally dislike team-building exercises; I was overloading in a big way that semester, so I already had a ton of work to do; and I had just begun coming to terms with my sexuality, but I wasn’t really out to many people.

Despite my fears, the retreat began well. Laura had some ice-breakers that were new to me, and very fun, and there was food, which is never a bad thing. The more time I spent with the other members of Wellness, the more I realized that we had a lot in common. Of course, it helped that everyone was very nice. The difficult part was soon to come, though.

One of the Wellness requirements is that you have a SMART Goal - that is, a Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely goal. For a lot of people, the SMART Goal had to do with one of the more obvious/traditional parts of “living well” – sleep, nutrition, or exercise. But mine was different – I wanted to be more out and visible on campus by the end of the year. Here’s the rub: we had to write our goals down and give them to Laura, and then we had to discuss them with the other Wellness members. “Oh, what a perfect opportunity to start achieving your goal, Jennifer!” you might exclaim. Well, yes and no. It definitely would have given me a jump start. But, you see, I wasn’t ready yet – I had only just met some of these people, and I didn’t know their views about LGBTQ people/issues. Furthermore, I didn’t really want to be “that queer girl” – I am so much more than my sexuality. So, I compromised – I wrote down my real goal, but I made up a fake one to tell the other Wellness members. However, at that moment I decided that I had to tell my roommate as soon as possible.

When we returned from the retreat, I asked my RA for a Roommate Agreement Form – the one that you can use to inform your roommate about your sleep and study habits, as well as to make some of the other compromises that come with sharing a room (such a cunning plan for setting the stage, I know). My roommate, K, and I went over that form together – we had pretty similar habits, so that wouldn’t be a source of conflict. We came to the last question, which was a prompt for either of us to voice any concerns or information not covered in the questionnaire. At that point, I came out to her and then said something like, “I hope this doesn’t make you uncomfortable, but if it does, there’s still time to make a roommate change.” I was so nervous, y’all; K was really nice and seemed like she would be a great roommate, but we didn’t really know each other. You know what her response was when I told her that I was queer? “Oh, I kind of figured.” And that was it! Well, not really – throughout the year, I realized that she was a) such a good Ally, and b) totally willing to discuss LGBTQ/feminist/civil rights issues with me. Awesome, right? I couldn’t ask for a better roommate, or a better friend! Her fabulous response and support encouraged me to work towards achieving my SMART Goal, and that coming-out experience was the first of many. They haven't really gotten easier, but I now know that there are so many people, from so many different groups on campus, who are supportive and wonderful.

(P.S. It would be awesome if you wanted to share some of your stories, either in the comments or as submissions to WOMYN. The womynatduke@gmail.com Inbox is achingly empty - last year's submissions are desperate for some young, hip company! You know, WOMYN is kind of like Google+ : magazines need submissions like social networks need people. Otherwise, neither of them is very fun.)

1 comment:

  1. Awwww!! I love it!! Especially the roomate part. :D

    My thoughts on being a "that queer girl" in the Metro, on the C2, around the quad, or around a city outside of Duke, have evolved. I used to think it was the #1 thing to avoid (that's a lot of pressure to put on someone when they first come out), but as I come out more and more in new cities, new people, etc., I'm starting to think it's something that can be really, really powerful if you embrace it and are in a place where it is safe to be out.

    Last but not least. Grrrl! The fact that this post exists-ROCK ON!! This is incredible. In my mind right now, I'm sort of rewinding to 1.5 years ago when you and I sort of started coming out together with a lot of other great people that spring, and it's really cool to see what you're doing now.

    I'm sure other people are reading this and happy to be coming out with you and be in such good company. I know I am.