rm (rm) wrote,

just because I didn't kill myself, doesn't mean I didn't feel like I was dying

My roommate freshman year of college1 was conservative. On move-in day she put up big anti-abortion posters on her walls. But she was Italian-American! Oh, me too! Maybe we could be friends! I made the mistake of telling her I was Sicilian (and seriously, her family was from Naples, so I'm not sure why she thought her origins were so much more classy than mine). But mostly, I made the mistake of being queer and having queer friends.

She and the other people on my floor systematically harassed me. Talked about me behind my back so I'd be sure to hear, hissed things at me under their breath when they passed in the hall. Her boyfriend came to visit, and I'd be locked out of our room. Her brother threatened to break my arm because I was queer. Later, I heard people in her family had threatened to kill me.

I moved out of the dorms and in with a guy I knew from the club scene. He was gay, and I shared his tiny bed at Georgetown and he would berate me when I wouldn't stay up all night designing club fliers for him.

Eventually, the university, which blamed me for everything that happened to me, assigned me a new room in a different dorm. This meant I might have to drop out of two of my courses, since I was no longer on the "living and learning" floor about the Roots of Western Civilization and was thus not completing the special requirements of the hard to get into program I applied for along with the honors program on my initial application. I fought to stay, and was allowed, but walked in head bowed, shamed and afraid every day, because all those people knew I was filth.

My professors thought I was a trouble-maker and told me I was wrong when I attempted to do my final paper on the way Alexander the Great, being an outsider in his own culture for one set of reasons, was subsequently adopted by other marginalized cultures/people across time and place for entirely other reasons as a symbol of their own potential.

My professors were okay with everything in my paper other than the homosexual/gay community's fascination with Alexander in the 20th and late 19th centuries, despite the fact that I had primary sources on this covering the entire time period. I would come into advising sessions and dump dozens of books on the professors' desks. Eventually they let me write the paper. I tell you Alexander the Great it a personal subject for me. This is why. Because he was ugly and small and conquered the world and failed anyway.2

My new roommates were all right. They didn't mind I was queer. One didn't mind so much she wrote an editorial for the school paper full of identifying information about how just because her roommate was bisexual, it didn't mean she was. I was supposed to be grateful. Instead, I had to steal the stack of outgoing papers to be sent to the parents who subscribed from the newspaper office so that my parents wouldn't find out I was queer.

Do you have any idea what it's like to be the a subject of debate and editorial in your school's newspaper?

Meanwhile, friends of my old roommate continued to harass me. They called me impersonating people I worked with in campus organizations and tried to dupe me into thinking these boys desired me. They called me and threatened to rape me to show me what I really needed. They called me and told me I was disgracing the school and would file complaints against me because I was seen holding hands with my girlfriend in the lobby when campus tours came through and I was driving people away from the school.

My friends Nik and Carlis were jumped on a street corner. We sat with Nik in the ER while he got stitches. I had to have campus security posted outside my door.

When I went to a GLBT student activist conference at another school, the cops were called on our conference, because the religious conference in the hotel felt threatened by us and people threw beer bottles at my girlfriend and I.

I lost my scholarship, because I couldn't concentrate on school. I couldn't tell my parents why -- lesbianism was an unfortunate birth defect they could live with; bisexuality would mean I was just a whore.3 They didn't think I should go back to college; clearly, I was lazy and mentally ill.

I spent the summer working and staying late at the office to write letters in secret to the campus administration begging to get my scholarship back. I would be denied it for one semester, but if I did well enough, I could have it back. I was out of the honors program though, and I should be grateful because the school was under no obligation to protect me from incidents that had happened because of something that was my own fault -- being gay and harming another student's studies by the stress it caused them to be exposed to my lifestyle.

I worked full-time to finish my degree, going to school at night and during the summers. When I would visit my parents they would accuse me of being a drug addict, because I would sleep for 24 hours, having never had time for sleep at school. My parents and I had a terrible relationship for years after this, in part, because of the lies I had to tell and the reasons I had to tell them.

My university is liberal now, and includes sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination clause. I don't care. I will never give them money, I will never go back for a reunion.

I didn't happen to kill myself because I didn't happen to have brain chemistry that made that seem like a logical thing to do. That's a fluke. But I did feel like I was dying every day.

Lots of people aren't as lucky as I was. As I am.

Tyler Clementi killed himself after his roommate broadcast his private, intimate moments with another person of the same gender on the Internet.

These things aren't pranks. They're violence. They're murder. They're hate. Even if the perpetrators are too fucking entertained by their own viciousness to know it.

Please support4 the organizations and projects below if you can. They save lives. If you have more to add to this list, please post in comments.



1 1990 - 1991. So, a long time ago. I'm good now. But this is sort of a thing.
2 I'm still angry about that Oliver Stone movie, too.
3 My parents and I have a much better relationship now, although I don't really know where they stand on these topics. They love me, they love Patty. We're all right. But I can't forget.
4 Support doesn't just mean money. Volunteer if you can. Link. There's lots of good you can do with whatever resources you have.
5 Yes, Dan Savage has been and continues to be a problematic figure on a number of issues (although he's been improving on some), including trans stuff, race stuff, body size stuff, and misogyny at female politicians who deserve ire, but not for their gender. However, I believe this project is worthwhile and will be participating.
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