gay

Cornell: Oppressive or Progressive?

March 13, 2015 in Academics, Alive Campus, Colleges

While speaking to counselors, they all said the same thing, “I think you’re just a little too hotheaded.” I read that as, “I think you’re too opinionated and see the world as it really is—a white heterosexual male dominated system.” They said, “We have plenty of gay people here who don’t get into any trouble at all.” What they meant was, “We have tall, handsome, masculine, white, financially privileged gay men here who have never felt true oppression and therefore, never had anything to complain about.”

While speaking to counselors, they all said the same thing, “I think you’re just a little too hotheaded.” I read that as, “I think you’re too opinionated and see the world as it really is—a white heterosexual male dominated system.” They said, “We have plenty of gay people here who don’t get into any trouble at all.” What they meant was, “We have tall, handsome, masculine, white, financially privileged gay men here who have never felt true oppression and therefore, never had anything to complain about.”

I’m gay. I am a person of color. I am a first generation Ivy Leaguer. I like to paint my nails a sparkly shade of ruby red. I enjoy performing my sexuality in a stereotypically flamboyant and feminine manner. I am outspoken about my radical queer opinions. I am a feminist. I am a queer rights activist.

I am anything and everything that the institution fears.

During my almost two years at Cornell, I’ve slowly grown to be more cynical about the institution to which I feel emotionally enslaved and my parents financially burdened.

  • Thanks to the existence of the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major and the LGBT minor, I came in with the expectation that the university allocated a decent amount of funding for the departments. I was wrong.
  • Thanks to the amount of LGBTQ+ resources that were supposedly offered to students of all gender and sexual identities, I came in with the expectation that the university has a wonderful support system for queer students. I had to create that support network.
  • Thanks to the pre-college panels with white-cis gay males/passable queers that kept saying, “Cornell is so open to homosexuality,” I came in with the expectation that Cornell is a university that is open to homosexuality. I should’ve made note of the fact that it was only white-cis gay males/passable queers having good experiences.

This past week, Student Assembly candidates debated on diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives—which could either negatively or neutrally affect the Haven/LGBT community. Rarely do policies positively affect the queers. Let’s be real, the institution is still an institution.

Two of the pertinent questions asked to these candidates were: “What will you do for Haven’s funding?” and “What will you do about the bias reporting system?”

  • Haven is the LGBTQ+ organization on campus. We have ~$50k worth of funding for the growing umbrella organization. We currently have ~15 sub organizations that make up the umbrella organization. UPenn (known as a less-progressive university) offers nearly $200k for its school of roughly the same amount of sub-organizations and student population. Interesting.
  • Last semester, I reported several bias incidents pertaining to homophobia. First, the administration simply scolded my white, heterosexual bullies. Those white, heterosexual bullies then harassed me further. Second, the administration scolded the white, heterosexual bullies a second time. Those white, heterosexual bullies made my life miserable. Finally, I stood up to my white, heterosexual bullies. My white, heterosexual bullies got offended and reported me. I was made to look like the bad guy. I got kicked out of my house of residence and had to move during finals week (when I should’ve been studying). I had to talk to the police. I had to go to counseling right before winter break and all throughout my winter break. I almost killed myself.

While speaking to counselors, they all said the same thing, “I think you’re just a little too hotheaded.” I read that as, “I think you’re too opinionated and see the world as it really is—a white heterosexual male dominated system.” They said, “We have plenty of gay people here who don’t get into any trouble at all.” What they meant was, “We have tall, handsome, masculine, white, financially privileged gay men here who have never felt true oppression and therefore, never had anything to complain about.”

I love Cornell. I love the intellectual community. I love being able to take a class on gender politics in Africa while being a team member on a service-learning trip to queer homeless shelters in NYC. I love the friends that I have. I love the creative writing and queer clubs that I’m a part of. I love my school.

But it needs to fix itself before I can proudly boast that my school is anything but a money-hungry corporation that talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk.

Video Analyses: Being Queer in College

February 7, 2015 in Alive Campus, Campus Life, Love

“This is by no means an all-inclusive list of advice. [Also] I’m working with the assumption that you’re going to attend a fairly liberal university.”

“This is by no means an all-inclusive list of advice. [Also] I’m working with the assumption that you’re going to attend a fairly liberal university.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-gc60MSqIU

David Levitz’s Being Gay in College is a concise presentation of suggestions for a gay college student. As he states in his disclaimer, “This is by no means an all-inclusive list of advice. [Also] I’m working with the assumption that you’re going to attend a fairly liberal university.” I want to extend that disclaimer by making it clear that his advice pertains only to the G acronym in LGBTQ+. In this video, David discusses the notion that liberal colleges are, in relation to high schools, wonderful environments in which to come out and perform your gender or sexuality in whatever form you desire. He continues by discussing the necessity to take LGBT courses (As a gender studies major, I absolutely concur), join queer on- and off-campus organizations, attend queer events/parties, and—most importantly—to find a “gay mentor.” As someone who’s watched his fair share of queer advice videos, I haven’t seen many others make that last point—I can’t stress enough just how important it is to find someone in whom you can confide and from whom you can learn.

"While I understand that the video was a homemade, do-it-for-fun video made by two friends, I found the advice a tad-bit over simplistic and, quite frankly, a tad bit problematic."

“While I understand that the video was a homemade, do-it-for-fun video made by two friends, I found the advice a tad-bit over simplistic and, quite frankly, a tad bit problematic.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4M3K8sUJ4A

TheButchandtheBear’s How to be Gay in College provides a brief—and problematic—synopsis of how one should perform their gender or sexual identity while in college. Essentially, the video is literally telling you how to be a gay person—“Be yourself, dress to impress, show a little pride, and surround yourself with other gays.” While I understand that the video is a homemade, do-it-for-fun video uploaded by two friends, I find the advice a tad-bit over simplistic and, quite frankly, a tad bit problematic. Firstly, there is no disclaimer about the limitations created by one’s sexual or gender identity (the tips only work for gay men) or one’s location (spatial recognition is incredibly important when thinking about the social-acceptance of an individual’s identities). Secondly, the tip about dressing to impress stereotypes gay men as always-fashionable and incredibly vain. Thirdly, surrounding oneself with other gays is actually a terrible idea, in my opinion! It’s great to have many queer friends and to participate in social and political organizations related to queer culture, but to only surround yourself with queer friends is a form of segregation—you are telling the world that you don’t want to befriend hetero-people nor do you want the hetero-community to get to know you. I understand the well-intentioned message behind the video, but gay advice videos are viewed by people in increasingly vulnerable positions and conditions, and to make light hearted satire of these vulnerabilities is plainly wrong.

"Why is there a difference between gay best friend and best friend? Can’t I just be your best friend that happens to be gay? Why mention my sexuality at all when you call me your best friend?"

“Why is there a difference between gay best friend and best friend? Can’t I just be your best friend that happens to be gay? Why mention my sexuality at all when you call me your best friend?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n4yDnJvuNI

Kingsley’s I Am Not Your Gay Best Friend is a sassy video that I snapped to during its entire run. As someone who performs his sexuality in a very flamboyant manner, I am oftentimes called “the gay best friend.” This phrase makes my blood boil as it does two things: A) Perpetuates the trope of the fashionable and sensitive gay bestie, and B) Puts my sexual identity at the front and center of my holistic identity (Why is there a difference between gay best friend and best friend? Can’t I just be your best friend that happens to be gay? Why mention my sexuality at all when you call me your best friend?) Kingsley hits these two points home when he deconstructs the stereotype of fashionable queer men: “I don’t give a fuck about your clothes…I don’t know anything about the seasons…if you ask me about the season, I’ll say ‘bitch, it’s spring.’” For anyone that’s ever faced this issue (looking at all of you gay men with those annoying sorority besties who think their “gay best friend” is the human-equivalent of a purse or a necklace), this video is top-notch.

Relationship (and Sex?) Advice for a Queer Ivy Leaguer

December 27, 2014 in Alive Campus, Campus Life, Love, Top 10 Lists

My parents, married for 35 years, met at a high school pep rally. My sister and her husband first encountered one another while being squished together during a chance encounter on a crowded New York City subway. Several of my close friends and their significant others have romantic “this is how we met” stories that involve a shared English class, a wild night at a fraternity party, or an accidental beverage mix-up at a cafe. The queer* dating world, on the other hand, is more complicated.

"Gay bars, gay parties, gay college organizations, gay anything are really the most viable real world options for finding a partner, besides digital applications."

“Gay bars, gay parties, gay college organizations, gay anything are really the most viable real world options for finding a partner, besides digital applications.”

“We met through an app” is the new “We met at a coffee shop.”

While sitting at a cafe, my gay friend once said, “I wish I could ask any cute guy in here out on a date.” Granted, it’s not as if a straight person could just waltz into a busy café and expect a date with anyone, but the option to ask around is present. The same cannot be said for members of the queer community—whether the option is absent due to safety, health, or privacy concerns. As such, smartphone apps—specifically Grindr and Tinder—play tremendously important roles in one’s dating life. I used to mock the “desperate women” in romcoms who would devour a tub of ice cream while browsing through eHarmony for a worthy man. Now, I am that desperate romcom character (though my life has far fewer slapstick moments). It’s a difficult truth to handle, but the queer sphere makes dating a more arduous task. Queer bars, queer parties, queer college clubs, queer anything are really the most viable real world options for finding a partner, besides smartphone apps (so get a smartphone!)

Grindr tribes & queer lingo (gay men-specific)

If you’re going to use applications similar in theme and function to Grindr, grow accustomed to terms such as: Bear, otter, twink, discreet, cleancut, and poz. The gay world has its own language. Unfortunately, we don’t have Rosetta Stone to help us with the finer details. Instead, we have Google.

Don’t be an “Outer.”

Visibility is a major dilemma in the queer dating world, more so in the college queer dating world. There are plenty of people who are “out of the closet,” but there are even more who are stuck in hiding—something with which to not mock, but rather, to sympathize. If you are “out of the closet” and are dating someone who isn’t, please—I beg of you—do not jeopardize their safety or emotional stability by forcing them out of it. Do not be selfish. Everyone should have the ability to come to terms with their sexuality if and when they choose to do so.

Don’t date the “Outer.”

On a similar note, if you are on the other side of the situation and are not yet “out of the closet,” do not date someone who is forcing you out (major emphasis on FORCING). Break free of their disgustingly heavy clutch and find someone who understands your situation and respects your personal decisions. As with all healthy relationships, we should always strive to be with someone who makes us happy, and who enjoys our company–our genuine selves.

IvyQ: The Pan-Ivy Queer Conference

Cornell's IvyQ Planning Committee (2014-2015)

Cornell’s IvyQ Planning Committee (2014-2015)

As a Cornellian, you have the privilege of calling yourself an Ivy Leaguer, and as such, have the privilege of the numerous queer-specific resources of the Ivy League. One such resource is the annual IvyQ conference—a Pan-Ivy League queer conference hosted by one of the eight educational institutions. Mornings and afternoons are littered with panels, workshops, and presentations by world-renowned queer activists and scholars, while nights are full of…”fun.” While some may argue that IvyQ is “one big orgy full of elitist scum,” I will argue that it’s a conference that’s designed for whatever it is that the individual wants it to be. I, for one, see it as the conference that introduced me to notion of social superstructures, that helped me to network with queers from other Ivies, and that changed my perspective on my body–body positivity.

“You’re gay, he’s gay. Let me introduce you two.”

Whenever I’m single, I often run into the common situation in which my straight friends introduce me to another one of their gay acquaintances. The logic: You’re gay, he’s gay, and so you two MUST click. If only it were that simple. Gay people, like everyone else, are people. Sexual orientation—for most, at least—is not a queer individual’s defining feature. Please remember this when you’re going out to find a hook up, a date, or a partner. (Also, quick side note for masculine gay men: Do not laugh at effeminate gay men for portraying their sexual and gender identities in a certain way. Sure, you may be incredibly buff and love outdoor activities, whereas they love dieting and show tunes. However, at the end of the day, you both like penis, so end the internalized hatred!)

Queers come in all shapes and sizes #BodyPositivity

As I mentioned earlier, IvyQ was a conference that changed my perception of my body. I have a layer of fat covering my abdomen; I have a terribly slow metabolism; when I was ten years old, I weighed over 200 pounds. After nine years of dieting, struggling through a period of eating disorders, and surviving a brief stint in which I exercised to the point of excess, I am now down to 130 pounds and couldn’t care less about the remaining body fat sitting atop my abdomen. It’s because I was introduced to a notion called body positivity, something that the gay porn industry seems to disregard. In a fabricated universe where all gay men are tall, white, maintain luscious hair, have pearly white teeth, and rock a solid six-pack, a gay man like myself would represent all that is wrong in society (or be nonexistent). However, the real world hosts people of all different shapes and sizes. Please respect that notion when you’re looking for a date or a partner.

Sex is NOT everything!

Don’t get me wrong, sex is great. I’m all about sex positivity. In fact, I was known as Haven Whore during my first year at Cornell (Haven being the name of the queer organization on campus, and whore being…well…). However, as with all healthy relationships, sex is not the only component. Be romantic (sorry, I’m a hopeless romantic); buy that bouquet of tulips (because roses are SO last century), go to a hole-in-the-wall café and order the most pretentious sounding beverage and share the overpriced concoction, go ice skating at Central Park during winter wonderland, fall asleep in each other’s arms after a long night of discussing your childhoods. Sensual is just as important as sexual, regardless of the media’s portrayal of queer hyper sexuality.

Haven: Cornell's LGBTQ+ Umbrella Organization

Haven: Cornell’s LGBTQ+ Umbrella Organization

“Relationships either end in marriage or a break up” (FALSE)

I’ll preface by stating that I’ve dated my fair share of “radical queers” (i.e. the nonconformists). My pessimistic straight friends constantly say, “Relationships only have two paths: Together or not together.” This sentiment doesn’t necessarily ring true for all queer relationships. I once dated an individual who was so against the hetero-patriarchy that he rebuked the very notion of marriage as it is a “hetero-privileged institution and [he] refuse[s] to become complicit in a process that was designed for, and privileges, the elitist hetero-community.” Point here being that not everyone you date will want to either break up or get married. Maybe figure out their priorities and political views before purchasing that promise ring?

Sometimes, Netflix is just as good as a wild night out.

I once dated a newly-out male. His perception of the gay community was completely fabricated by shows like Queer as Folk and 90210. Granted, the gay community is full of hyper sexualized individuals, but it’s also full of people who’d much rather spend their Friday night cuddling on the couch while binge-watching a full season of New Girl than taking six shots of tequila and dry humping on top of the bar’s countertop.

*It may seem as if I use the words “queer” and “gay” interchangeably. However, when I say “queer,” I am making a statement about the general LGBTQ+ community. When I say “gay,” I am referring to the cis-gendered gay male community, of which I am a member.