We’re back in class! And this past week inspires many questions: How will our lives change this school year, how will our minds expand, why is Mitt Romney’s skin so tan? Each has a spectrum of unique answers (one cannot even be deciphered by consensus on the Internet – try it), and while the prospect of the work ahead makes my palms sweaty, I’m so glad to be back with this student body. I spent the summer at Stanford as a resident assistant to some pretty cool high school students, but the campus was dominated by conferences, kids’ camps and eerie quiet after 10 p.m. Arriving back at the Stanford where students don’t have to check in for curfew and at least three-quarters of them know their way around is like being home again.
I’m a junior now. And though I’ve always loved school, it’s taken about this long to feel like Stanford is truly a home away from home – a place where I have a family of friends and familiar faces. I’m fortunate that the home I’ve created here has been mostly a replication of what I’ve had at home; my parents built a safe and loving world for all aspects of who I am, and I’ve looked for friends who would do the same.
All of this is an amazing gift. The person I am and the person I am becoming are largely the same here and at home. That is a privilege. I know that many students must hide pieces of their identity, or at least pride in pieces of their identity, when and if they return home. Political buttons come off backpacks, new experiences go unmentioned, entire portions of their lives don’t exist in the eyes of their family.
For me, the quiet, happy collision of Stanford and home life may be challenged here, by publishing on a single page of the Internet. It’s the kind of thing, like surveying your pictures on Facebook before others see them, that makes you consider what you’re willing to share, and who you want to be to the world. I’ve spent a great deal of time considering; this column is one big fat deliberate profile pic.
And yes, I am confident in an identity here that I’ve tried to make evident at home: I am dating a girl and identify as gay or queer or any word that means “not straight” just as much. And while that is fortunately not earth-shattering news at Stanford, I can’t help but imagine the scene of an old friend or teammate spitting out their coffee should they read this. “Gaaaayyyyyyy????” Whether they really couldn’t care less or are so happy for me they could just pee their pants – which is splendid – I have to write from one heart, as one person whose important identities include “gay.”
I have comical visions in which some of my family recommends journals in order to contain these feelings (so many feelings!) in a less visible form. This is not because they don’t love me and know my identity well at this point, but perhaps their sense of propriety dictates less vivid public proclamations, and I can understand that. But I’m also tired of the game where we try to determine if it’s OK to discuss my dating life just as mindlessly as any of my heterosexual friends or family members.
Suddenly this happy fact about me becomes some kind of ticking time bomb, and mentioning my girlfriend around people who “don’t know” might be explosive. And I’m tired of pretending that LGBT students don’t exist in the Catholic high school I attended. While I love the school dearly, I wish it would be a more affirming and open place in this regard, simply for the sake of honesty. I came out after my freshman year at Stanford because I hadn’t dated anyone before then, but when this is a personal truth for younger high school students, they shouldn’t have to hide it.
Being who we are – being free to become fully everything we are – matters. I was inspired by Kristian, who wrote a beautiful column earlier this week; he reminded me that while my journey has been its own challenge, I have never given much thought to my sexuality as it relates to race. As a queer white female, there are plenty of high-profile, relatable role models who look like me, and I simply didn’t have to. Kristian’s willingness to be visible and to teach through his experience is a great example of why I love this community. It is great to be a part of it, and great to be back.
And now that I’ve said all that, I will sit my column-writing self down for the moment and put any extra feelings in a journal.
Contact Annie Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org.