Thumbnail graphic by Olivia Abeyta and Kim Jao / North by Northwestern

Norths & Wests is a new segment of the NBN Opinion section focusing on displaying opposing opinions on a certain topic. In this article, opinion editors Mya and Abigail, and staff writer Hannah, discuss navigating the college experience as queer students.

Mya Copeland: A baby gay is still a gay, even when they’re scared of women

I think I’m about as “baby gay” as you can get, so new of a queer person that this might be how my parents – who know almost everything about me – find out. And that has nothing to do with being uncomfortable with my sexuality. That’s something I’ve been exploring since I first considered the possibility in 11th grade. Girls are just more difficult.

I’ve known I liked girls for a while, courtesy of a friend who came out as bi and sent me into a gay panic. But when I was having that realization, I was in a relationship with a man. And then I got into another relationship with a man, one I thought was for the long haul. So when I got to college, freshly out of that later relationship, I thought it might finally be time to explore being with women. And then I started flirting with guys again.

It came down to the fact that flirting with guys felt more natural. When they talked to me, there was no insecure moment of second-guessing whether they were into women. There was no moment of crisis when I considered how I’d tell my parents, much less my grandparents. At the end of the day, guys are just easier.

And maybe this is supported by the fact that the first girl to openly tell me she wanted to kiss me ended up telling me she was straight a week later, but I’m still figuring out my sea legs here. I don’t have the suave ease of the South Campus Lesbians (an affectionate term coined by my roommate to the incestuous circle of lesbians that frequent the South dorms) who manage to flirt with every AFAB person at Northwestern without any difficulty.

I’m sure I could find my place there if I wanted to. I’ve been told my sense of style (would that be cottagecore or femme?) is enough to clock me on the weakest of gaydars. And being a Hozier fan doesn’t hurt. I check off a lot of the classic queer boxes, but I still feel like an imposter.

Part of that is because I like men. I first came out to friends as bi in 12th grade, but I’ve slowly started saying I’m queer to better encompass how I feel about my sexuality and gender. However, the fact remains that I like guys, much to some of my lesbian friends’ chagrin. I’m even in a group chat named “Mya’s lesbian conversion.” There’s something about being attracted to guys that makes me feel like a lower-level queer person, like I can’t legitimately be interested in girls if I’m not disgusted by the thought of a man.

At the same time that I’m coming into my sexuality and gender, I’m also coming to terms with the fact that I may not ever be what I perceive as the archetypal queer person. Still, I know it would be wrong to put myself back into heteronormativity. College has been an overwhelmingly hetero experience for me, something I’m not unhappy about, but I also don’t want it to be the only experience I have. For now, I’m just hopeful that one day I can be more than a baby gay.

Abigail Lev: TBH, queer dating is easier

Coming from a ‘North Campus’ girlie, where heteronormativity flourishes, I have not actually had any success in terms of straight relationships. I have talked to people and engaged with people (both guys and girls), but I’ve only actually had something more (at Northwestern) with other girls.

Within the Greek life scene, the area where I am most social, there are a lot more queer people than one would expect. I mean, it isn’t like the theatre community (my other social sphere) where gay = norm, but still, it’s frequent.

In my Long Island public high school, not many people were out and open. Sure, maybe this was just my circle, but when I came out to my friends in 12th grade, I was the only one in my group. Northwestern is the first place where I have been comfortable enough to actually explore the queer dating scene. And it has been an incredibly liberating experience for me.

The biggest gripe I have with queer dating is the labels. If I am with a guy, when I talk about him, everyone knows ‘what we are.’ But with a girl, relationships are so much more ambiguous.

Still, not in an ‘ew PDA’ way, but every time I see a queer couple walking down the street holding hands or smiling at each other, I feel a bit more comfortable in my own skin and my own identity.

I don’t know if it is just the dating scene, or if the culture at Northwestern is to thank for this newfound comfortability, but at least at this point, I am comfortable dating who I want to date.

Hannah Zhou: Personal inquiries of queer labels and relationships

Unfortunately, a straight girl was my gay awakening. That’s when I realized my type is femme girls. The problem is I just end up becoming their friends (the only thing I know how to do).

Everyone has different relationships with their sexuality. Some are still exploring, some don’t have the space to explore, some are very sure about it with rainbow stickers (I’m guilty of this) and pins and socks and bucket hats (I’m guilty of this, too). I specifically have a gay sheep, my Chinese zodiac sign, on my laptop.

But when I first went to college, I was terrified to come out, especially to strangers. But I realized that the stakes were even lower because no one here had expectations about my sexuality. It’s a completely different story for my parents who don’t know and who I don’t plan on telling anytime soon. They can theorize and hypothesize all they want about the reasons why I wanted to buy that gay sheep sticker. But when my parents tell me that gay marriage should be overturned and I shouldn’t be listening to that “silly stuff,” referring to a gay joke, I don’t have any need to come out to them anytime soon.  

The community at Northwestern is a complete 180. I’ve come to accept my sexuality and become so much more comfortable. It helped that basically everyone on club ultimate frisbee is gay. Yet sometimes I wish it wasn't that obvious for certain people. Like sometimes I wish my outfit wasn't screaming gay in front of a cute guy. But who knows if I even like guys? I don't know what to label myself. Gay? Queer? Lesbian? Bisexual?  

I generally think it’s better we have labels for so many different sexual identities because it allows us to understand and express ourselves better. But labels also oversimplify things. I don’t know which label to ascribe my sexuality and I wish it could be as simple as “I just like who I like.”

But besides labeling my sexuality, I still have so many lingering questions: Am I gay enough? Am I the right type of gay? I don’t know if my outfit is gay enough that I’m sending signals to my community. Sometimes, I feel too gay, where I’m wearing a men’s shirt and I don’t think it represents my sexuality fairly. Sometimes, I don’t know if I should be more femme or more masc.

The thing about liking femme girls is that most of the time they are straight or bi but already in (straight) relationships. There is no opportunity whatsoever for an inexperienced gay to practice my non-existent rizz outside of conventional heteronormative scripts. Queer dating itself is also like navigating a maze: Are we friends but your love language is physical touch or are we more than friends and your love language is physical touch?

I haven’t figured a lot of things out. But college is the time to discover and explore our sexuality. Whether we want to top it with a label or not is completely up to us. My favorite topic to talk about with gay people is gay people. So if you ever want to talk about gay stuff, hit me up ;D