The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Where my queer folk at?

Where are the queers on campus? In the SRC of course. Any and all queer groups on campus meet in the SRC, so if you want to attend to some queer issues on campus, go there. Alright, alright, allow me to rephrase. Where my queer folk at?

Recently a friend of mine approached me about the lack of visibility for queers on campus. They brought up how, only a couple years ago, when the class of 2012 reigned supreme on campus, there were students who one could point to and call a queer leader on campus.

There was a veritable camaraderie amongst these house-mothers. They were all friends with each other and they were brashly unapologetic about being themselves. I remember looking at them and thinking, “Damn I need to find me some of that!”

To be fair, this conversation started when my friend asked me if I believed there was such a thing as a queer “community” on campus. I wrote an article about this for the GUM in the fall of 2013 (go check it out!), which basically concluded that Grinnell itself was a welcoming community for queerness, but that the “queer community” was defined on an individual basis. Not every queer wanted to hang out in the same group or wanted the same visibility.

But I want some damn visibility! I want us to be a neon sign flashing in the face of heteronormativity. I want to run with a crew that wears velvet crop tops, bougie designer labels and thrift store couture all the same, and ain’t afraid to put on a pair of (sensible) heels or Timberlands. I want other Grinnellians to point to my queers and go “Dayum.”

Not everyone wants this type of visibility. Though not necessarily my approach, this is understandable because group visibility has its costs. As one lesbian student told me, “I’ve had guys tell me that I can’t be a lesbian because I’m too pretty and girly.” People who would rather not have their queer identity front and center would rather stay low-key.

But y’all. Having people assume you act a certain way because of other people who identify the same as you do is not our problem. It’s their problem. Why should we sacrifice queer solidarity just so that our identities are a little more easily understood and compartmentalized by people who don’t understand queerness? We shouldn’t.

Personally, this desire for visibility is informed in part by my identity as a colored person. Queers don’t get as much visibility in mainstream media and colored people get a lot less. There’s been progress over the last decade however. Unique, the black transgendered character from “Glee” and the wonderful Laverne Cox, the black transgendered woman and single mother of “Orange is the New Black” are characters that do a lot for pushing mainstream acceptance of people and their identities—but they also do another thing. They give me life.

Seeing a transgendered character kill it on stage, watching Cox’s character dish out wisdom as she does hair—these windows provide a peek into what it would be like if these characters ran the show, not if they were minor characters. What life, what joy, what kind of perspectives could be explored and shared with other people. Seeing is believing, believing that the world can be different.

If you don’t believe in the power of seeing in realization, do yourself a favor and pick up “Paris Is Burning” from Burling. It’s a documentary about 1980’s New York and the colored queers who started the Ballroom scene. They had “dress up” categories like Executive Realness, Gala Queen or Femme Realness. These were queens on a budget here, who faced difficulty, “actually” becoming the categories they dressed up as. But in the ballroom, they could become the living image of realities that escaped them in media representation, but that could be realized within and respected by a like-minded community.

So why should Grinnell be any different? It shouldn’t. Like RuPaul says, “When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do.” So let the queers of Grinnell become, dress like, signify or otherwise represent the images of their own imagination. Let us be visible. And let us turn it out.

(QPOC is working to organize queer visibility/community on campus and would encourage you to attend their meetings, Thursday at 9:30 p.m. in the SRC. Everyone is welcome!)

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *