Q&A: Gay senior narrows down college options based on inclusiveness, LGBTQ+ clubs

(Photo used by permission of Talamantes)
Senior Austin Talamantes

Senior Austin Talamantes came out as gay in middle school and has founded and been active in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, plus (LGBTQ+) club at SCDS.

Q: How have the differing LGBTQ+ communities at universities affected your college list?

A: While there are obviously a ton of schools I wouldn’t consider going to (schools in rural Southern areas and very Christian schools), I also have to look at schools to see if their inclusiveness is really as inclusive as they say it is.

For example, there are schools that have LGBTQ+ clubs, but are those clubs the extent of the college’s appeal for LGBTQ+?

Q: There is a stereotype that colleges tend to be left-leaning and open-minded. Does your research confirm that?

A: I think a lot of universities are LGBTQ+ friendly. However, does that mean the college or university is open to criticism from LGBTQ+ students?

For instance, some schools might have an LGBTQ+ club, but it doesn’t mean that they’re willing to listen to the students if they want gender-neutral bathrooms or classes about LGBTQ+ issues.

Are they open to policy change? How do they respond to homophobic or transphobic actions on campus?

Q: Are there any colleges that you crossed off your list because of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment? 

A: I wasn’t even looking at schools I thought would be problematic. I can’t even think of any specifically because I ignored ones in the South and ones that are religious.

Q: Do you think people in general are becoming more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community?

A: People are accepting the LGBTQ+ community more and more, but often are only comfortable with feminine, beautiful lesbian women and masculine, clean-cut gay men, ignoring the spectrum that encompasses our community. Young people, as much as it sucks to say, often perpetuate this.

Q: What are your biggest fears relating to being part of the LGBTQ+ community in college?

A: My biggest fear isn’t how I’ll be treated by faculty, but by students.

As a gay person, I’m worried that if I went to certain schools, I wouldn’t fit the mold of what is “OK” at that school.

Q: How do you think the students will treat you?

A: I am worried that if I go to the University of Virginia (UVA is his mother’s alma mater and where his brother Patrick Talamantes, ‘14, is a junior), I will be considered unattractive or weird for not completely fitting the mold of what is considered attractive or acceptable for a gay person at that school.

I am also starting to identify with being gender-fluid, which, for me, means I identify with being male and female at the same time.

I am worried that if I go out wearing eye shadow or long hair that I might experience a lot of judgement.

(Photo used by permission of Talamantes)
Senior Austin Talamantes

Q: How did you assess whether or not a college was supportive of LGBTQ+ students?

A: Does the college have an active, large LGBTQ+ club? Fine, most do.

Does the club have its own room and resources? Great.

Does the university offer gender-neutral housing and bathrooms? That’s great.

It’s really about finding the place I’ll feel most welcomed and supported.

Q: Are you worried about housing? 

A: I’m actually really worried about this. I haven’t had a ton of straight guy friends in my life, but there are people I have gotten along with and maybe have roomed with them during Ashland (the high-school trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland).

However, being roomed with, most likely, a straight guy worries me because not only do they have to accept me as a gay person for me to not feel unsafe, but they also have to be comfortable with my gender identity and not feel uncomfortable when I talk about things in passing.

What do I do if the roommate isn’t accepting – or even if they only tolerate me? Most people worry about roommate compatibility in general in terms of music, sleeping habits and friends. I also have to worry if my roommate will fully accept me as a human being.

Q: What would be your preferred housing?

A: I’d be much more comfortable rooming with a random girl than a random guy, partially because guys usually feel more awkward around me. I relate to women much more and always have.

Q: Would you want to live in an LGBTQ+ house?

A: I have definitely considered living in an LGBTQ+ house, but I’m not sure yet.

Q: What colleges that you know of have these houses?

A: I know UVA does.

Q: Do you plan to be involved in LGBTQ+ activism in college?

A: Yeah, definitely!

Q: Do you think colleges are doing enough to be accepting of LGBTQ+ students, or could they be doing more? 

A: More colleges should have gender-neutral bathrooms and gender-neutral housing.

I also hope that colleges that don’t recognize a student’s gender identity and pronouns would improve that.

Safe-space training should also be necessary for teachers and counselors to ensure that everyone is sensitive.

By Nicole Wolkov

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