“I was diagnosed with cancer about 7 months ago, and in 7 months I’ll finish chemo and go to university. Even once chemo is over I’m unlikely to be ‘cured’ and there’s a reasonably high chance I’ll die in the next five years. Is it ok to not tell anyone at uni I’m cancerific? Is it immoral to form a commitment with someone knowing I might die on them? How do I deal with conversations in which I have to come out as gay and a cancer survivor?”
- Question submitted by tomoliverduncan
Okay. I have no experience with this whatsoever, so these are all my feelings based on knowing NEARLY NOTHING.
I think you should go into university as a person going into university. You should live your life to the fucking fullest the way you want to live it. If you fall in love with someone, you’re going to fall in love with them. That’s just that. If you’re going to fall in love with three different people over the course of four years, you’re going to fall in love with them. That’s just that.
Whether you tell someone the first day you meet or you tell them three months in or you tell them one year later, you will fall in love.
Also, this is a part of your story. I don’t feel like talking about my alcoholic mother bc then people dance around it and feel weird drinking beers and don’t make the same jokes around me. In a similar way, you don’t want to talk about your past with cancer because some people will dance around it, feel weird asking questions, and not wanna make the same jokes around you. You’re afraid that it will become a huge part of your identity and will overshadow who you are as a human bc you’ll be the gay who used to have cancer. BUT LISTEN. I was never the gay with the alcoholic mom. Being gay was a part of me, and having an alcoholic mom was a part of my story, but I was still Dannielle. And you will still be @tomoliverduncan … you know what I mean?
You aren’t being dishonest by allowing people to get to know you for YOU, at your own pace, and in your own time. Not in the least. You are doing exactly what you should be doin.
Well, there are three big questions here, @tomoliverduncan (can I call you TOD?!), and so I am going to break them into three smaller answers to make sure we get to them all. Cool?
Is it okay to not tell anyone at your university?
Yes. Dannielle addressed this question the most in her answer; this is a facet of who you are, and your choices about who you tell and how you tell them are yours, and only yours, to make. The only thing I would like to add here is that I suggest you allow yourself flexibility. Don’t set a harsh rule that you can’t tell anyone, ever, but rather, go in knowing it is okay for you to keep this piece of yourself private unless you feel inclined to open up to someone. That may happen. If it does, allow yourself to be open with that person and experience the relationship as it happens. Which, incidentally, leads me to question number two:
Is it immoral to form a commitment with someone if you know you may die on them?
Well, this is tricky. Technically, we all form commitments knowing that one of us is bound to die on the other(s) at some point… but you’re right, you occupy a very specific position in this experience. My advice here mixes in a bit with my first answer, because no, I don’t think it is immoral to keep parts of ourselves private from those we love. I do, however, think that if you are falling in love with someone, you will likely want to share your journey with them. I think that after awhile in a committed relationship the strain of keeping something like this a secret will cause you stress and worry, and I don’t think that is healthy for you, your partner, or the relationship. So, while not immoral, I would be open to seeing how you feel as your relationships develop (see? overlapping advice! tada.)
And, how do you deal with these conversations when they DO come up?
It’s so interesting, TOD, because while your question is about how to deal with telling someone you are a gay cancer survivor human… my gut tells me that this is very similar to how I’d advise telling someone that you were a gay non-cancer-surviving human. People respond to our energy when we speak to them – and that isn’t to put any pressure on you to tell your story in a particular way, but rather to let you know that you will be cueing others on how they might be able to respond. It will vary from person to person (and even place to place), but I think the thing to remember is that you can be honest about your experience, you can laugh about parts of it, you can scrunch your eyebrows about parts of it, you can cry about parts of it, and you can accept the love and support that comes your way. You can also lay some ground rules right at the outset. Say, “yes, before I came to uni I was actually in chemo treatments but HANG TIGHT BEFORE YOUR EYES GET ALL WATERY, I am feeling okay and you can ask me any questions you might have and you can still flick your soda on me when I piss you off IT WON’T HURT ME. Cool?!”
Help them help you, and, just like anything else, have patience while these new friends and loved ones learn how to be there for you in the ways that you need most – especially when that means just walking down to the dining hall to complain about the shitty way they make grilled cheese sandwiches. <3
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"I’m a queer high school senior, and am highly considering applying to an all women’s college that happens to have very strong LGBTQ+ life. My parents are less than thrilled and want me to just go to a regular co-ed college and not be surrounded by other queer folk. How do I explain that this is more important to me than they realize?"
- Question asked by Anonymous and answered by Red Davidson as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
I could go a couple different directions with my answer. Firstly, I’m curious about your sentence, “My parents are less than thrilled and want me to just go to a regular co-ed college and not be surrounded by other queer folk.” Have your parents actually said or implied the part about not wanting you to “be surrounded by other queer folk”? Or do they not want you to attend a school without (cis) men? If they aren’t specifically hung up on the “being around queer people” detail, convincing them how important going to a women’s college is to you might be easier. Also, while I definitely want you to be able to go to a women’s college if that’s where you want to be the most, you should also keep in mind that there are co-ed colleges that are LGBTQIAP+ positive and have strong queer communities. Oberlin and Hampshire come to mind, although I don’t know exactly what kind of atmosphere you’re looking for. For other colleges that might be more queer-friendly, I’d recommend checking out The Princeton Review’s ranking of the “most LGBT friendly colleges.” Campus Pride also has a lot of resources for LGBT college students.
On to answering your actual question, though! I think the most important thing to do is to figure out why specifically you want to go to your given college. One of the biggest reasons I originally became interested in Smith was that, out of all of the colleges I visited, its community felt the most welcoming and comfortable to me. But even if you haven’t visited your preferred school(s), what about it stands out to you? What about its history, current student body/politics, academics, housing system, etc.? If it will be difficult (or just impossible) to convince your parents that you should be able to go to a school because of its queer community, building an argument about the other reasons a school is important to you might be more effective. Also, a generally good argument to use about attending a women’s college (whether you think it’s actually relevant to you or not) is to point out that a lot of women in “positions of power” graduated from a women’s college.
While you’re primarily going to college to get an education, a residential college is also where you’ll be spending the better part of four years. And having access to a community that you know will be made up of people with similar experiences to yours, and where you will likely be safer, should be just as important as academic components of choosing a college. Having access to queer spaces and resources will diminish the presence of at least one potential stressor in your life, and will also probably make it easier to concentrate on your school work. If you think your parents might find that a compelling argument about why access to queer spaces is important to you, you can try saying that as well. I don’t think a lot of straight people—even if they aren’t overtly homophobic—really understand the value of being surrounded by other queer people. Though queer spaces aren’t without their problems or tensions, they’re still usually a lot easier to be in, because you don’t have to navigate assumptions about your sexuality in the same way.
I wish you luck in your decision making process and hope you enjoy wherever you end up!
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"What do you think about 'coming out' in personal statements and things of that nature? I'm applying to Grad school to be a counselor and my ultimate goal is to work with LGBT youth, so it is relevant but I don't know if it's a good idea to mention it and risk discrimination from whoever may be reading it."
-Question submitted by Anonymous
I can nearly guarantee you will not have an enjoyable experience at a school where your entrance essay is judged harshly based on how you identify or who you like to make out with… you know what I mean?
I think you should do it. I think things happen the way they’re meant to, or at least, things will happen the way they happen and we have every ability to make the best of those things. If you submit the best essay you’ve ever written and the person reading decides they hate it because it’s a little queer, then the right person is not reading your essay.
Have a back up, have two back ups, hell have three back ups! You won’t want to compromise yourself and your writing for a school. Compromising now means compromising for the next 4 years.
Write the best fucking thing you’ve ever written, if it happens to be queer, awesome. If it isn’t even a tiny bit queer, cool. Just write what you want to write and feel good about it, the rest will work itself out.
Do you want to know something that I think is pretty fucking cool? This March, Dannielle and I are going to be speaking at a conference for high school guidance counselors. The whole purpose of our discussion with these guidance counselors is to give them more information for working with their queer and trans students in situations exactly like the one you are having. The sentiments that Dannielle is sharing above are going to be a key part of the conversation.
I think coming out in a personal statement, if that is what is ringing in your ears and mind and heart when you sit down to write, is absolutely what you should do. Fuck the admissions office that would ever look at an honest reflection on an important facet of your identity and deny your admission because of that facet. Yes, the admissions office is not a reflection of the entire campus… but it is still a part of that campus, and if they don’t want you, they DO NOT DESERVE YOU.
I could flip at least three tables in my house over the anger I feel at even thinking of that possibility, and so should you.
You should always be encouraged to be who you are and to speak clearly and confidently about your journey, and to expect to be met with respect. Will it always happen? No, sadly it will not. However, the more people who stand together and say, “This is who I am. This is my journey. I deserve a space here on your campus/in your office/in this world,” the more powerful that chorus becomes, and the more the world has to listen.
I KNOW I GOT REALLY FIERY AND I KNOW THIS WAS ABOUT COLLEGE ESSAYS BUT YOU GUYS EVERYTHING IS A MICROCOSM OF EVERYTHING ELSE AND IT IS ALL CONNECTED AND YOU WRITE THAT GODDAMN ESSAY THE WAY YOU WANT GODDAMMIT.
YOU ARE A PERSON AND YOU ARE THE BEST.
*flips fourth table*
Sidebar: You should check out CampusPride for help in searching through LGBTQ friendly campuses. Also, if you have written your college essay on your queer or trans identity/coming-out experience, etc, email us at info (at) everyoneisgay (dot) com… we’d love to have your input on that March panel I mentioned!!
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"So, hi. I just arrived at college. I hadn’t really been nervous at all until now realizing: I AM SO UNPREPARED IN MY GAYNESS. I haven’t kissed a girl / ever had a girlfriend, and I’m starting to freak out a little. Help?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
You and EVERYONE ELSE, you know!?!? It doesn’t matter who you have or have not held hands with, kissed, slept with, been heartbroken by, etc, college is a whole different ball game. You feel so prepared until you stand in front of someone you like, someone NEW, someone you are soooooo attracted to, someone who likes you back, BREATHE BREATHE PASS OUT RINSE REPEAT.
It doesn’t matter. You could think you’re super-over-prepared and you will learn very quickly that you are not. So, you’re actually ahead of the game by being AWARE that you are not prepared. Most of us are just acting like we know what we’re doing and then being slapped in the face by all things new. Most of us watch two episodes of the L Word and we’re like “oh, i get it, Shane looks like she doesn’t care but SHE REALLY DOES… that’s what I’ll do” so we sulk around wearing lots of necklaces and everyone thinks we’re mysterious, but really it’s just confusion and nerves all bundled up inside screaming to get out in the form of ‘OK I ADMIT IT I HAVE NEVER KISSED A GIRL.’
So, own it. Own that fear and those nerves bc nerves when meeting someone new are kind of great. PLUS, regardless of how prepared you might have thought you were, it wouldn’t matter. We’re all underprepared for new loves. Stand up straight, ask a girl to dinner, kiss her if you feel like it and be okay with the fact that you might tremble with nerves the entire time.
Listen. I legit have nothing to add to this — Dannielle has given you the truest words of wisdomy wisdom that exist: no one is more or less prepared than anyone else, and the best thing you can do is know that you are currently surrounded by swarms of people who, when confronted by the prospect of interacting with someone they really like for the first time, are like:
So, with that in mind:
Take it one moment at a time, one kiss at a time, one heart-flutter at a time. Be as open with yourself as possible. Know that exploring and discovering things for the first time is magical, even when it’s comical or terrifying or everything all at once.
"Any advice for dorm room shopping?"
- Question submitted by Anonymous
I’M SO HAPPY YOU ASKED.
Two things I love (1) shopping (2) saving space.
First of all, Target is a college gold mine. I know it’s semi-annoying to have all the same underbed boxes as everyone else, but who gives an eff AND YOU CAN DECORATE THEM WITH STICKERS. Underbed boxes are cool because you can store your out-of-season clothes in them. AM I THE WORST? WHO AM I.
Target, Ikea, The Container Store, STORAGE IS SO IMPORTANT. Unless you don’t have a lot of shit, in which case, IGNORE ME. I think college dorm is the perfect time to decorate in all of the ways you’ve always wanted to, you can finally put the picture of your friend mooning the camera, you can finally put up a Zoey 101 poster, you can finally have a chalkboard for your friends to draw marijuana leaves on… maybe don’t tho bc who knows what your RA will be mad about. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
Fluorescent lighting sucks and will make your selfies look terrible, so get some stringy lights. Keep at least one bowl and one spoon in your dorm bc WE ALL KNOW you’re going to want cereal after the caf is closed and you’ll buy a box and a milks and you’ll get to your room and cry while eating dry cereal bc you didn’t listen to me telling you to buy one bowl and one spoon. Get a smell good candle bc you’re in a small space with cement walls and no ceiling fan (read: similar to jailz).
Keep your shit clean. Anything is cute if its yOU… it’s only not cute if there are bugs or chunky milks or sticky shitz on the floor, etc.
EEEE THIS IS SO FUN OKAY HERE GOES:
You may not be able to use candles because everyone is convinced college humans start fires as a hobby (which might hold some truth), so in place of Dannielle’s candle suggestion, might I suggest POTPOURRI?
I am kidding.
Imagine potpourri in a dorm room?
I hope you don’t even know what potpourri is.
Okay so, seriously, though – I know FEBREEZE is like, an invention from the 1840s at this point, but that shit works, and you will thank me when your comforter smells like a comforter and not a butt.
SHOWER MOTHERFUCKING SHOES. Let’s be real here, everyone. No one wants their delicate lovely feet touching the same surface as every other human on your dorm floor. Gross gross gross gross nope thanks bye.
GIANT LAUNDRY BAGS. Laundry in college tends to get done when you have to wrap yourself in an old bedsheet because everything else is dirty, so come prepared.
HOT POT. Do people still use these? This was my all time most prized possession in college. Dining Hall closed? Who TF cares I have my box of mac and cheese and my bathroom sink and my hot pot and my spoon/fork (thanks, Dannielle), and I can eat at 3am IF I WANT TO.
TINY TRAMPOLINE. Everything else was practical, but if I had to tell you the best part of my freshman dormroom from an impractical standpoint, it was my miniature trampoline. It took up about 1/3 of our limited floorspace but it’s COLLEGE WHO CARES, and you could bounce on it or sit on it while writing papers at 3am (3am is a v busy time in college), or invite people over to see it when you really just wanted to make out with them, OR MAKE OUT ON IT… the possibilities are endless.
This has been a great chat.
I want to go back to college.
Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!