Disclaimer: This article refers to males and females in a binary context to highlight the differences between their experiences. It represents the experiences of white cis males and females, and may not be representative of the whole population. It also does not highlight the experiences of non-binary or trans individuals, or individuals of different racial and cultural backgrounds.
On the surface, the community at X seems very LGBTQ+ friendly. We have the amazing work of X-Pride, the bright pink Get Real hats that can be seen through-out campus and lots of exciting LGBTQ+ research. Despite this great work, many members of this community do not feel comfortable expressing their identity.
Gender plays a big role in acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals. Being a femme-presenting queer person is seen as a spectacle and a challenge to straight males, whereas being a queer male is frowned upon. It’s no mystery that bro-culture runs rampant at StFX, and extreme masculinity is celebrated. The Xaverian weekly spoke to an alumnus of one of the all-male residences on campus who did not feel comfortable coming out while living there. He cited that a friend living in the same residence came out as bisexual, and was treated differently by his peers: “no way was I was coming out while living there, I would have been shunned. There’s a reason I only lived there for a year.”
Another individual shared his experience on Grindr. “There are so many guys on Grindr who are in the closet, who just want to hook up, and I’m not interested in hooking up with closet straight guys when I know it won’t go any further than secret hookups.” Public displays of affection are avoided in male homosexual relationships. People in these relationships cite that these displays illicit stares and comments from strangers as, “we make a point of not holding hands in public- maybe for a second, but we have a mutual understanding that that’s just not something we do.”
In contrast, when talking to female students in lesbian relationships, the consensus is that they feel much more comfortable expressing their sexuality. The student stated that, “we both agree that we forget we’re in a gay relationship because it feels normal and people don’t treat us any differently than heterosexual couples.”
However, another student discussed avoiding public displays of affection while out drinking due to unwanted male attention, “I was making out with a girl at the pub, and I noticed a group of guys attempting to take selfies with us, and when I told them to stop, they asked if I wanted to go home with one of them. I have never received a reaction like that while with a guy.”
While we have clearly come a long way in our society with marriage equality, anti-discrimination laws and increased acceptance of LGBTQ+ relationships, there is still a lot of work to be done to facilitate these individuals feeling safe enough to express themselves in public. We’re not putting on a display for your entertainment, we’re just trying to exist in society like everyone else.