For all that is done to accommodate students of diverse gender and sexuality backgrounds at Wooster, and a great deal is done, it is broadly and consistently held that many queer students have yet to feel at home; whether for issues of social interaction or the logistics of maintaining multiple identities on and off campus. When these challenges prove to be too much and interrupt focus on coursework or impart unbearable psychological strain, we turn first to our college resources; this is perhaps in the hopes of finding in them a reliable, codified approach to be reproduced for succeeding students and their own obstacles.
While we are right to look towards a sense of Wooster community to alleviate these disharmonies, so often overlooked is the contingent diversity of geographic, economic and cultural backgrounds permeating the student body. What one finds, looking beyond the loudest proponents of a more sustainable support, is that among queer students what could be intended as a sheathed affirmation from one could be taken as a naked insult or a form of gatekeeping by another. In spite of a blanket consensus towards mutual support, we have among us students from environments supportive and otherwise. To suggest an entry-level understanding of inclusion for those incoming, whether seeking to change their name or only to organize in spirit of their shared identities, may be a mistake.
As a newcomer to an affirming community, hardly did I think diversity would be a harmonious affair through and through. I was nonetheless surprised at how unnavigable the interplays between those satisfied with Wooster’s efforts at inclusion and those demanding more of them are. I was not alone in finding these facets of the Wooster experience to be difficult to interface with, and I am sorry to say that it is a source of a great deal of factionalism among incoming students. Some, hearing so great a dissonance between their own, humble concerns and the privilege of their colleagues, resort merely to go about their identities modestly, eschewing such mainstays as queerness and pride. Others, seeing the struggles of the excluded as a figment of their own high school formation, dismiss fortified equity altogether, having already found their foothold. Still others, and a great many at that, have yet to consider how their identities intermesh with other campus goings-on.
I share this not as a hard complaint but in a testimony of fact, for there are surely students whose experiences I have misrepresented and who would find this piece as polarizing as another misinterpretation of their intricate stories. That being the case, I would hope we can learn from this discussion that no single policy change, whether encouraged by students or staff will be the liberation of our constituency. I for one have yet to happen upon the “perfect” solution; one that will fully nurture personal growth on and off campus, and I sometimes suspect that many do not reflect often enough on their own progress. Regardless, we might try looking behind ourselves to those less adjusted to collegiate relations before throwing our full zeal behind administrative convenience this or student enculturation that, just as to gain their perspectives on what, in fact, our identities mean to us and how we can best facilitate each in our policies and relationships as an intentionally inclusive community before letting our intentions get the better of our sensitivity.