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.
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