At College I Will No Longer Be Unique

Posted on November 8, 2013 at 2:15 PM

By Paul Johnson


I am not a rebel. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I don't do drugs. I don't go to illicit parties. My future dream career is to become an orthopedic surgeon and develop better robotic hand prosthetics that can respond to stimuli from the brain. When a local newspaper says they want to interview a student from my high school, the faculty picks me as their representative. The one time I went to a club I immediately found a quiet corner where I could discuss The Hobbit with some fellow nerds and wait a few hours for my partying friends to stop drinking and dancing.


Where most teenagers see their formative years as an opportunity to break out and establish their own unique identity, I see them as an opportunity to cram as much knowledge into my head as possible.


Until now, I've been okay with that. No matter how hopelessly goodie-two shoes my behavior has been, I've consoled myself: I'm gay. No one else in my school has the courage to admit that. There are people somewhere out there who would hate me for it. That counts for my teenage rebellion and my rejection of infantilizing norms.


Not for much longer, though. Every one of the dozen colleges I've toured has been clear: everyone who could come out will. "Queer Safe Space" signs, rainbow walls, couples holding hands, diversity celebrations, LGBT literature classes.


Paul's "boyfriend" shirt.


In any college I’ve visited in the Midwest, I won't be unique. I won't be the first gay person somebody has ever seen. I won't be boldly subverting anyone's expectations by wearing my "boyfriend" shirt. I'll just be another face in an endless sea of overachieving med students.


That's not necessarily a bad thing. Hell, I'll probably get to have a boyfriend for the first time in my life! But it's hard to let go of the first thing that let me know I was unique and special, somebody worth something to other people (read Paul's earlier article here). Even though I've since discovered plenty of other things I like about myself, I'll never again be an out-and-proud 14-year-old boy, gleefully sure there'd never been someone like him.


I appreciate the massive cultural changes that caused colleges to exude acceptance so profusely, but it's still a bit of a culture shock. I've spent the last four years in a place where being gay made me unique and one of a kind. At college.... "If everyone is special, then no one is."

Categories: Other Voices

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