‘There are just so many gay guys at Georgetown.”
I hate this sentence, and I hear it way too much. Frequently, this line of thinking leads people to believe that Georgetown is some kind of “gay-topia,” that Georgetown guys who are not straight go through college having never experienced actual problems related to their sexuality or gender expression. Though I really do wish this were true, it is very far from reality. Here are some ways in which this thought process is beyond problematic (though it is by no means exhaustive):
There is not an infinite amount of gay men at Georgetown. When compared to other Catholic schools, maybe even when compared to some other non-Catholic schools, Georgetown may have a “sizable” amount of out gay men. Though their struggles are unique and are sometimes different from our own, other queer men, such as those who identify as pansexual or bisexual, being added to that number makes it even more “sizable.”
Let’s not get it twisted, though — Georgetown is still an incredibly straight space. Within classes, (non-Pride or LGBTQ Resource Center) events, parties and other spaces in which I know the most people in the room, I am often one of a handful of people within the entire out LGBTQ community, let alone out queer men, present. Moreover, it is a fact that the vast majority of people at Georgetown identify as straight, and the fact that there are more queer people here than that one out gay guy at your high school does not necessarily mean that we are “everywhere.”
This thought process frequently leads to ignoring dynamics of privilege and power within the LGBTQ community at Georgetown. In so many ways, I am beyond privileged. I am able-bodied; I am cisgender; I am white; I am a man; I come from an upper-middle-class family. Within the LGBTQ community on Georgetown’s campus, cisgender, white men like myself always have the most exposure, and as a white, cisgender man, I do not have to worry about feeling comfortable in queer spaces on campus. This privilege can play out in an especially dangerous way when one wrongly paints Georgetown as a “gay-topia.”
Once it is assumed that (white) (cisgender) gay guys have no problems related to sexuality at Georgetown, discussions surrounding how struggles vary and exist on a deeper level for asexual people, transgender people, queer people of color, queer women, queer men who are not gay or any other person within the LGBTQ community at Georgetown often become that much more difficult to legitimize and make visible. It is wrong to assume that gay men do not have any problems; it is worse to take this assumption about gay guys, apply it to the entirety of the LGBTQ community and subsequently ignore how privilege works within that community.
Georgetown can be — and often is — a heteronormative and homophobic environment. As my Spanish class knows all too well, I am constantly pointing out, usually loudly, the ways in which class discussion, materials and assignments are heteronormative beyond belief. (Pienso que es un poco heteronormative a causa de…) Contrary to what my Spanish textbook leads one to believe, queer people did, in fact, exist before struggles for marriage equality began in the early 2000s. Within the past year alone, two hate crimes stemming from homophobia, one on campus, have been committed against students. Though it could be a whole lot worse, my mere existence as a queer man at Georgetown can sometimes be at best uncomfortable and at worst extremely dangerous.
This culturally ingrained atmosphere at Georgetown does not exist in a vacuum; it exists within a society that is homophobic and heteronormative. Fewer than 20 states have legal protection against discrimination in both the private and the public workplace based on sexuality or gender identity. Forty percent of youths experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ. Forty-one percent of transgender people have attempted suicide. I wouldn’t be able to get married to Zac Efron in 13 states. The subconscious of each student, professor, staff member or any other person who is affiliated with Georgetown has been educated, informed and influenced by homophobia and heteronormativity to some extent. This subconscious does not simply evaporate because one is at Georgetown; rather, left unchecked and unanalyzed, it informs all that one does here. I really do wish I could say that I were completely comfortable and at ease expressing my sexuality and my masculinity in any way that I desire the moment I stepped onto Georgetown’s campus, but that’s simply not how it works.
If we ever want to make Georgetown a better, more inclusive place, breaking down false stereotypes and assumptions is a great place to start.
Patrick Bylis is a sophomore in the College. LIFE UNLABELLED appears every other Friday.