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"How can I be cool and casual and chill at college parties and hooking up, when I'm the least cool, casual, or chill person ever?"

- Question submitted by anonymous

Kristin Says:

Let me tell you what: I am not cool or casual or chill. I won’t ever be any of those things because I have some social anxiety and also I have a lot of feelings and also mostly when I dance I just fling my arms about the room and bob my head.

Let me tell you what else: Probably at least a few of you think I am cool and casual and chill… even though I am like HAHAHAHAHA NOPE. I have scientific data on this because the other night I went to dinner with an Everyone Is Gay reader who is starting her freshman year of college and during our dinner she said she thought I was cool... And, in response, I laughed just like I did up there, in all caps, but in person because she was sitting across the table from me.

Point being: No matter how “uncool” or “not casual” or “really the opposite of chill” you are… the right people will still thing you are the fucking coolest, best, raddest person there is. You see, that is how we find each other! We see a person flinging their arms about the room and we are like OH THANK GOD ANOTHER ARM FLINGER IS HERE, and then we talk about Harry Potter or we talk about manicures or we talk about denim or we talk about Tegan & Sara or we talk about the earth orbiting through space or we talk about the X-Files or we talk about The Bachelorette. We find people who think we are cool as we are, because, well, we are cool and also “cool” is relative.

What you need, Anon, is to do all the parties you want and skip the ones you don’t, and work at being YOU. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s fucking real as shit. I am still struggling to do this, myself. Sometimes I write things here or I take a selfie for Instagram and I am frozen with all those voices saying, “You are so so so not cool, don’t you know how uncool you are?!”

Work with me to say, “Cool is relative, and I am me.”

I promise to post my pictures and write my advice as ME if you promise to kiss those babes and go to those parties as YOU.



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“So I’m a nonbinary trans man and I’m starting college next year. At college I want to start going by my preferred name and pronouns, maybe presenting a bit more masculine, etc. BUT. I’m confused on one thing… Should I tell people I’m trans when I meet them? Like, I don’t want to like, have to explain what being trans is or stuff right when I meet people, especially since I have trouble with social anxiety already. But I’m worried they might assume I’m a girl if I don’t explain.”

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Liam Lowery Says:

Hi there, Anonymous. As a non-binary trans man who started going by my preferred name and pronouns in college, I’m glad you reached out with this question. The fact that you’re reaching out at all indicates you have your stuff far more together than I did as an incoming freshman, but I will tell you the top three things I wish I had known when I started undergrad.

The first and most important thing I can tell you is to let people pleasantly surprise you.

When I rolled into my all-girls dorm and met my lady roommate, I stutteringly told her I was trans Actually, I may have said, “I’m a dude, kind of like inside?” I braced for impact, assuming she would ask to change rooms. Instead, she said “cool” and asked me if I wanted to order pizza. Don’t discount that you can get lucky.

What’s more, all the women in my dorm who I feared would shun me were friendly and generally disinterested in my gender identity. That’s because from the first week on, we had papers to write, philosophy texts to read, passages in Russian to translate (maybe that was just me). On top of that, people were hooking up, fighting, and going to Taco Night at the cafeteria. Which is to say that once you are in school and dealing with the day-to-day, it will likely not be as challenging as it seems in the abstract.

My advice is to practice your script for when you meet people initially. Maybe you want to say you’re non-binary, maybe you just want to say your name and preferred pronouns. It will probably change, but the important thing is that you set boundaries for your everyday interactions and introductions that are comfortable for you. Once you do this a few times, you will get used to it and feel out how much you want to say and when.

Now, to the second big thing I wish I’d realized sooner. There is a major pitfall to be wary of, especially as a trans person: you will feel pressure to do the unpaid work of educating people when there are others who are tasked with that responsibility. Try not to fall into this role.

Early in my time in undergrad, when I did happen upon some poor unfortunate soul who had no clue what gender identity was and had never heard the word trans before, I would talk with them at length about gender identity and why it mattered. I had at least thirty of these conversations in my first month of school, I kid you not. It left me feeling burnt out and unsatisfied.

Here is the thing, Anonymous: you are at school to learn, just like everyone else. And hopefully, have a blast and make a lot of friends. But you are not there to be anyone’s personal gender identity educator, even if you happen to be an expert in the subject area.

Looking back, I realize that those people who had burning questions about what gender pronouns are should have just googled it. I mean, give me a break here—gender pronouns are what they sound like!

Asking me those simplistic questions just because they knew I was trans was disrespectful of my time. If nobody is paying you to do that educational work and there are a lot of great resources available to people who want to be allies, you do not need to be that resource. Stepping into that role instills an expectation that trans people exist to educate cis people. If you want to get involved on your campus, advocate for your school to include a transgender 101 training at orientation so that all students will get some info on trans identities—that would reach more people than a one-on-one chat with you.

The other important pitfall to side-step is one I never realized until I was done with school, and it might be even more important than the whole “you are not everyone’s gender professor” thing.

My RA didn’t really get it when I told her it was important that she take the sign with my given name off the door. Instead of complaining to the building manager, I ripped it off and put up on that said Liam in big, honking block letters. I did that, more or less, all through college: I would email professors at the beginning of the semester and ask them to change my name on their class rosters. Usually they would, sometimes they wouldn’t. I would get called by my given name in class, be embarrassed, and stop participating. Or if I felt brave that day, I would clear my throat and say, “Actually, I’m Liam.”

Those moments were far from personal triumphs. What I should have realized is that there were salaried staff members at my university tasked with helping students—including me—deal with administrative issues. By making my problems and myself invisible, I was giving them a free pass not to engage with the issues transgender students often face at colleges.

Look for opportunities to lessen your load so you can take full advantage of being a college student. For instance, contact a dean at your school and ask them to inform professors about your preferred name. Let people do their jobs for you, and by extension you will show them how to do it for other trans students.

There you go, Anonymous—those are the things I wish I knew when I started school that have remained relevant (at times, too relevant) since graduating. Good luck at college, and remember: you’re there to learn and occasionally have fun!

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"I'm in college, and I just got accepted into a study abroad program and I could not be more excited!! I have wanted to do this for a long time. However, recently I have also been coming to terms with my queerness and the country I'd be living in isn't exactly the safest for queer people. Should I even bother going? And if I do, how do I deal with being closeted for 4 more months?"

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Jasmine An Says:

Congratulations on being accepted to your study abroad program! This is such a huge accomplishment and something you can feel proud of. Study abroad is an intense experience. Immersing yourself in a foreign country and culture can lead to the absolute best experiences of your life, and also some of the hardest. While I can’t make your decision for you, I’ll do my best to offer up some of the things I thought about before embarking on six months of study abroad in Thailand.

Safety first: I can’t speak to the specifics of the country you’re thinking of living in, or the specifics of your situation. However, it is likely that as a foreigner and a study abroad student you will be relatively shielded from physical harm. This is not at all to diminish the seriousness of deciding to place yourself in a potentially hostile living situation. The mental and emotional impact of living in a place where you are unsure of your safety is a hugely important consideration. Before committing to study abroad, you should make certain you’re ready for the challenge of adjusting to the dynamics of a new society and culture.

As you mentioned, one of the particular challenges for us queer folks abroad is potentially going back into the closet and hanging up the EVERYONE IS GAY t-shirts for a while. After recently coming to terms with your own queerness, it can definitely feel demoralizing and painful to put that part of your identity under wraps (again). I spent years impressing upon my family and friends that I wasn’t comfortable with traditionally feminine clothing, and then found out that I would have to wear a skirt as part of my school uniform in Thailand. I had to ask myself, was the chance to study in Thailand worth disguising myself in a skirt every day? Ultimately I decided that for me, it was.

However, you are the best judge of your own situation. If you feel like you’d rather stay in a known environment and really invest in exploring your queerness—do it! The country you want to visit will still be there in a few years if you decide you need time to devote to yourself before going abroad. Being surrounded by a strong and affirming community while exploring your identity is an invaluable privilege, and if you have that opportunity in your life in the States, take advantage of it.

On the flip side, if you have been thinking about going abroad to this country for a long time and are really excited about the trip and challenging yourself in a new context, go for it! Homophobia rears its ugly head in many places, including our own communities in the USA. But queer spaces and individuals are also infinitely present, even in countries with reputations for less than stellar track records in protecting their queer citizens. No country is perfect, especially/even our own, but don’t let that stop you from grabbing for adventure with both hands.

Should you decide to go abroad, there are many small things that you can do to nourish your personal queerness. It cannot be said enough, you are by no means, in no way shape or form a “bad queer” if you are not out and loud about it. You owe nobody an explanation or a quantification of your sexuality. If being “in the closet” allows you to decrease your anxiety while you are abroad, be unashamedly in the closet. As long as you, in your heart and mind, are secure in your own queerness, never feel obligated to perform your queerness in order to legitimize it.

That being said, it can be incredibly lonely to go from out ‘n proud to silent about your identity. I feel you. What enabled me to play along with the general assumption I was straight while abroad was the fact that I had an incredibly supportive community both back home and among my study abroad peers that I could turn to when I needed them.

If you are traveling with other students who you like and trust, talk to them. If you’re lucky you may even find someone in the same boat as you. Find someone(s) you can go to whenever you need to word vomit rainbows or cry over heteronormativity.

If you aren’t traveling with other students, or aren’t comfortable sharing your queerness with them, find a way to set up a virtual support community. Facebook, Skype, and other social networking platforms are really at their best when helping us stay connected to our people across time zones and oceans. Also, keeping up with queer culture via websites like Autostraddle was a huge balm to my queer soul while I was abroad.

Find spaces where you don’t have to hide your queerness. Even if you decide that for safety’s sake you will be in the closet while abroad, create spaces where you can drop that mask, even for just 15 minutes of scrolling through pictures of attractive folk on the Internet.

Don’t forget that the local queer folk are all around you, whether you recognize them or not. I was in a Thai drugstore filling a prescription when the pharmacist winked and asked if I had a girlfriend yet. Maybe “queer” in this country looks nothing like what you think of as queerness. Maybe they don’t call themselves queer. Maybe queer does not translate into their language. But they are there.

Finally, delight in the smallest acts of subversion. In Thai, the word for “significant other” is gender neutral. I had a long conversation with my host parents describing my partner, and I’m positive they were happily imagining my American boyfriend, while I was telling them all about my American girlfriend. Look for inside jokes and small things that remind you of your own queerness. Find ways to be proudly, obnoxiously, loudly queer in your own head if nowhere else.

Whatever you decide, best of luck in your coming adventures!


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“I got into this really good (and expensive) university. Yay!! The problem is it is a christian university and it’s pretty strict. Even though you are allowed to be gay and attend (phew), you are not allowed to date AT ALL, whereas straight people can date, but not have sex. As a girl who is closeted, but identifies as gay, would it be worth it to hide who I am for the year I’d be attending? Or, should I just take a gap year while I figure something else out? Please help!”

- Question submitted by anoddassortmentofeverything

Dannielle Says:

I think you gotta do what’s right for you and deep down, way before you asked this question, you knew what that was… Stop right now and think about what I’m about to say. Am I about to say, “nah, fuck that university, you have to be able to express yourself and be open in order to be emotionally healthy…” or am I about to say, “it’s just a year or so, and then you’ll have the education, and you can go off and do your own thing. Your private matters are your own and no one deserves to know them, etc.”

I can argue for hours on either point, but it wouldn’t really matter. What matters is how you feel, what you want to do, and what will make you feel best. A lot of people don’t give a flying fuck about sharing who they are with the people around them. A lot of people feel absolutely wrecked inside if they can’t be 100% themselves. It’s so specific to each individual, so it’s hard to tell you what’s “right.”

I think you can look back at the answers I gave and figure out what works best. There is no right answer, there is only what is right for you, and unfortunately you’ve gotta do that one on your own. If it helps, write out why each option is the best option. Stay positive on both sides. Write down all of the greatest reasons for you to go to school and not share every aspect of your life, what will you gain, how will the school benefit you, what kind of dope people will you meet. Write down all of the greatest reasons to take a gap year, what can you do with your time, what kind of people will you surround yourself with, how can  you continue to grow. Stay positive on all fronts and just pick the one that looks even better than the other totally great option.

No one will judge you either way, and if they do, it isn’t their place to do so, you have GOT to do you.

Kristin Says:

I just have two cents to add here, and that is:

If you do what Dannielle says and you follow your gut, you won’t regret the decision you make, period. Your gut tells you the way, nearly every single time, and even if you decide to go and you have moments where you struggle, or you decide not to go and you have moments during your year off where you feel a bit lost… you’ll still have made the right choice for you.

If you believe what I am telling you (and you should, I am a magical witch), then you will be able to take Dannielle’s direction, think through it, and make the choice that pulls you hardest.

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“I’m starting college in September and I decided to live in a single this year because I’m just starting to transition. I’m worried about living alone and missing out on the social scene. I know I want a roommate in the future, but how should I go about finding one and talking to them about my identity?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Liam Lowery as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Liam Says:

Let me start out by saying how excited I am for you! Congratulations to you for making the tough choice to room in a single and not let the FOMO get the best of you. You deserve this time to focus on all the changes in your life—transitioning into college life as well as your gender identity— and trust that friends will come.

First and foremost, when you talk about your identity with folks at school, be patient with yourself. You are new at this. You will make mistakes. Sometimes you will wait too long to tell people, other times you will say something sooner than you wished. Especially when you are meeting new people.

But part of the goal of college is for you to meet new people, of all sorts. You will, I’m sure, be one of, if not the, first trans person many of your classmates have met. And they will, likely be one of, if not the, first _____ (insert any type of person) you have met.

To that point, in order to make sure you don’t miss out on the social scene: make yourself do things. Living in a single room and transitioning, it’s natural to isolate yourself a bit—so just be aware of that and stay plugged into events at school, attend club meetings, try things out. Make a calendar and get yourself out there.

As far as finding a roommate next year, I would recommend trying to live with someone you feel comfortable with—this might mean someone from the queer community, or it might mean finding someone who is super into Dr. Who and likes to silly-dance to old Ke$ha songs while cleaning the floor.

The biggest thing to remember is that your unique needs as a trans person are of equal worth (if not greater) than any other preferences you may have.

When I first roomed with someone in college, a randomly assigned cisgender straight woman, I was nervous my identity and the correlating needs I had would be taken less seriously than, say, her allergies. I was pleasantly surprised when, after I came out, she suggested we come up with roommate policies to address my concerns.

For a while, this included a blanket policy against nudity (dysmorphia was rough), scheduling time for us each to be alone in the room privately (a.k.a. when I would take my binder off and sit in front of a fan), and a policy limiting room-visitors to those who were pre-screened as non-transphobic. (Yes, in case you are wondering, this person was the best and we are tight to this day).

Your room or apartment is your home, and you deserve to feel totally comfortable. For me, that meant being out to everyone who walked in the door. For you, that could mean being stealth, or not talking about this aspect of who you are unless you feel safe and know your roommate is cool. Whatever it is, you deserve it, and you should find a roommate who will respect your needs.

This year is a really good time for you to figure out your boundaries, and find someone who you like and think is a good fit. Trust me, it is easier to figure it out on your own and let someone now than to try and figure it out with another person.

But this same principle relates to making friends in college more generally. An absolute base-line is that the person not be transphobic, but good friends will support and love you, and be extra tender and listen harder to your needs relating to being trans.

Recently, I was in that time period where a cool acquaintance was becoming a friend. You will be experiencing this a lot, once you are in school. This person seemed really cool— though she identified as straight and cisgender, I was able to talk with her about being trans and it was not weird.

Then, one day, as often happens when you are trans (even after you transition, wait and see!) someone did something transphobic. It was one of those micro-aggressions that typically roll off my back, but for whatever reason, on this day, it was too much. I had a lunch date with this new friend, though, and sat picking quietly at my lunch when she asked, “You seem upset, what’s up?”

I told her what happened, and not dispassionately. She nodded, shook her head, and said “what in the actual f“ when appropriate. And, as you’d think, it felt much better to have talked to someone. Most of all though, it felt good to know my friend was as cool as she seemed.

“Thanks for letting me talk about this stuff,” I said, suddenly embarrassed and looking down at my feet while we walked back from lunch “And like, being an ally or whatever.”

She scoffed and raised her eyebrows. “I don’t need a title,” she said, cocking her head at me, “I’m not doing anything, I am just not being an actual pile of garbage.” I laughed, but she turned and looked at me dead in the eye, “That’s pretty much the absolute least you deserve.”

And that is how I knew she was not just a friend, but a good friend.

In school, you will meet many cool acquaintances, friends, and if you’re lucky, some good friends. But remember that your trans identity is not a negative, and that you deserve to be listened to and respected. As you meet more people, look for the ones who treat you that way—those who do so without fail, and without you having to ask—and keep them close to you through college and beyond. These people also tend to make very good roommates.

Good luck and have a great first semester!


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