Straight, not narrow
Lauren Weldon | Friday, September 23, 2016
My birthday was Sept. 10, and it was a very special day — the opening home football game against Nevada, turning 19, spending time with friends, singing from tailgate to tailgate with Harmonia, Notre Dame’s all-female a cappella group. It was great.
And it was special in a new way too, as someone special to me was visiting: my girl-friend. (Whoa!)
She and I are both from the Bay Area of Northern California, and for the most part, on every date or slightly public romantic display of affection, people back home hardly bat an eye. It isn’t jokingly called the Gay Area for nothing. My pansexuality has never been a source of nervousness or distress or challenge to my identity back home. I consider myself very lucky to have been born into a family and community that was always supportive of me, no matter who I may have liked. When I told my parents, it was almost anti-climactic; they were really only interested in the amazing, intelligent, beautiful and empowering individual that I wanted to introduce to them and share with them.
But let’s be real, last weekend I was nervous. This was my girl’s first Notre Dame visit, and it was the best birthday gift I could dream of. But I became self-conscious about where I go to school, out here at a conservative, Catholic institution in the Midwest. While I knew that more or less, my friends would be chill, in my mind I had concluded that this was not normal, and that we had to act like “friends from home” so as not to attract too much attention.
Notre Dame in my mind was overwhelmingly straight and presumably very narrow.
By this, I mean that I thought everyone would be close-minded. That since this school is (predominantly) straight, it would also be narrow. And in considering a game weekend, when the school is crawling with fans, alumni and parents, I was even more insecure.
But then a weird thing happened.
With each friend that I effectively came out to in the weeks before her visit, hardly an eye was batted or a confused question asked. They were just excited to hear more about her. I had a pent up assumption that the whole process would be trying and difficult, but to my surprise, it wasn’t. Wow.
When game day rolled around, there were multiple people in my a cappella group and friend groups that still didn’t know. That morning, I decided a little off-the-cuff that I would just say “screw it” and not try to hide her or myself or us as a unit. What did I have to be ashamed of? “Haters gonna hate,” I told myself, as I prepared for the range of confused to bigoted responses we might receive.
But again, I was wrong.
With each interaction that started with a super friendly, “Hi! Are you friends from back home?” I responded with a, “Hey, yeah, this is my girlfriend! She’s visiting this weekend from out of town!”
And this is where it got weird. They loved her. To them, it was as if this wasn’t anything new, this wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; their responses were as if I was introducing my long-distance boy-friend. They were excited and interested and respectful and nice.
So, here’s the thing. I owe you an apology, Notre Dame community. I made assumptions about you, all of you. I assumed the worst. I assumed that being me, being myself and introducing someone significant to me would be a disaster.
And I was wrong.
Notre Dame community, you did amazingly. And I’m sorry I made assumptions about you based on our location and demographics. I’m sorry I assumed that you would only like parts of me and not the whole. I’m so happy that I was proven wrong.
So often, as a member of the queer community, I expect that you will make assumptions about us. I expect close-mindedness because of just one aspect of my identity. But you know what, Notre Dame? I was the one making assumptions, and I was the one who turned out wrong.
While I know that as an institution and community we aren’t perfect, and there are many of us that have not had the same experience that I had last weekend, I’m so proud to say that I go to a school that may be predominantly straight, but is not predominantly narrow.
Stay golden, Notre Dame. Let’s work together to make this a community where we aren’t surprised by inclusivity, but rather expect it and celebrate it.
Contact Lauren Weldon at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.