Our friend Anna North at Jezebel picked up on an interesting article from the Cornell Daily Sun wherein an advice columnist told a sorority girl who thinks she might be a lesbian to out herself. Right. Now. Not because it means she might get more play (which is the best reason to do this), but because her sorority sisters might be uncomfortable living with a lesbian. Specifically, she said:
Everyone has secrets. Your roommate might not know how to put in a tampon, or the skinniest girl on campus might have secret Twinkie binges every night. But these secrets don’t affect anyone else, while yours does. Some girls might have chosen to live in the sorority house because they don’t want to live with guys who could be checking them out, and even if you don’t have a crush on any specific girl, you’re right that your sexual orientation would make them uncomfortable. It would be just as unethical for you to “pretend to be straight” to avoid discomfort as it would be for a guy to get breast implants in order to land a sweet single in Balch. No matter what the motivation, placing your roommates in a situation that could potentially make them very uncomfortable if they knew the truth is just not ethical.
Just for starters, Rosen’s comparisons are bizarre. Whose secret is not knowing how to put in a tampon? And in what way is Perry Fan’s situation similar to some sort of college-aged Bosom Buddies scenario? Beyond that, though, what Rosen’s basically saying is that Perry Fan is morally obliged to come out before she’s ready just because the news might make some people uncomfortable. Translation: their comfort — or rather, their ability to register disapproval and possibly move to get her kicked out of the house — is more important than Perry Fan’s right to privacy.
First of all, hahaha about the Tampon Secret. I hope Playtex turns that into an advertisement with a lot of dancing and swirling skirts in the next month.
Other than that, what they seemed to forget is that almost no one in college takes lesbianism seriously. Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to notes that in college they knew girls who declared themselves lesbians – loudly, proudly – and the universal reaction seemed to be either “that’s so hot, I’m gonna hook up with her and her girlfriend” (from men) or “Oh, I liked Kissing Jessica Stein, too. Maybe I should be a lesbian, as well!” (from women). Hell, Judy Blume was writing about women who experimented with lesbianism in college in the ’80s and saying that all of them turned straight the day they graduated.
That’s not to say these girls weren’t really lesbians. They probably were, and that’s great. That’s just to say that no one cares, because it’s college, and people aren’t particularly good at separating girls who make out with girls at parties to impress the lacrosse team from girls who make out with girls because they want to marry those girls and adopt children.
I’m not sure that’s a good thing. In a way, I think it’s easier than it is for gay men, because men who declare themselves homosexual really will experience some changes in the way they’re treated (best case scenario: some stupid girl will be all, “omg, can you style my outfit, now?” and they’ll say “no, sorry, still on the basketball team and have not transformed into a fashion designer.”) But at least those men will have their sexual identities taken seriously, rather than everyone assuming it’s a phase or something they’re doing because they had a bad break-up with their last boyfriend.
But then, I did not attend every college in the world. I attended the same one as Elizabeth Richard, where guys got blowjobs from their friends and maybe weren’t gay. Maybe there were colleges where coming out as a lesbian was a big deal that people treated as a significant event. Was your college one of them?