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ISSUE 118 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/15/2004

Come out as you are

By Lauren Ciechanowski
Staff Writer

Friday, October 15, 2004

Let's be honest here, okay? I run cross-country. There, I said it. Whew. And you know what? I raced last weekend, too. That's right -- the gun went off and I ran. Some people think I'm crazy, that running is wrong and perverted. Runners pee on themselves? "That's disgusting!" said Tracy Pedersen, `07. Maybe it is perverted, but I like it and it just feels right. I don't think God loves me any less because I run. I've tried to give it up time and again, but cycling, swimming and sleeping just don't do it for me.

That felt good.

And you know what else? I'm gay. That's right, I'm a homosexual. Some people think it's perverted and disgusting, and I've tried to change, but it just feels right. One of the big differences between being a runner on campus and being gay on campus, though, is that I run with a team of 60 women and I see about 20 joggers on campus each day. How many homosexuals do I identify on a daily basis? Well, I look in the mirror when I brush my teeth.

It's Coming Out week, and what that generally means for St. Olaf is that a slew of straight kids -- allies, as many are called -- slap some rainbow ribbons on their backpacks. That's great; I'm all for that. If I were straight I'd do the same. I do, but more homosexually.

So what does it mean to be a gay student at St. Olaf -- a small, Norwegian, Lutheran college? Of the bisexual and homosexual students I interviewed (most of whom did not want to be identified by name), all felt that they were somehow at a disadvantage to their heterosexual peers. Heterosexuals can draw from a pool of 40 to 60 percent ... "I'm looking at something under ten percent," said one lesbian `07. Paul Dillon `07, added that while he felt he did not date less than his heterosexual peers, "I have to work harder to meet [men]."

Frustration for most gay, lesbian and bisexual students does indeed focus on the numbers issue. While the rest of the campus is working out of a dating pool, students that are not heterosexual are working out of a puddle.

While students interviewed feel that St. Olaf is tolerant of homosexuality, they do not necessarily feel that homosexuality is accepted. "Heterosexuals seem to accept that [homosexuality] exists, but unfortunately stereotype homosexuals," said one bisexual `06. "The campus is very tolerant and can be very supportive, but just a little gender bending outside the drag ball can raise quite a few eyebrows," added Dillon.

No students interviewed, gay or straight, mentioned any instances when they had been chastised because of their sexuality. However, several said that they might be treated differently if other students knew that they were gay. Lizzy Jose `05 said, I have never seen any PDA between a gay couple, nor have I even recognized any gay couples on campus. She felt that this was because the atmosphere at St. Olaf was not conducive to letting homosexual students express their sexuality. I'm inclined to agree: I do not know if I would be able to publicly express my affection toward a partner on campus.

Students also feel that the stereotyping of homosexuals is prevalent at St. Olaf. Promiscuous, flaming, shallow and limp-wristed all come to mind, said Michael Burrows `07. Many students pointed to media and society for the stereotypes students hold, such as the way men and women might dress, talk or wear their hair. I entirely agree; you should see my roommate. With her flaired jeans and cropped t-shirts, she couldn't look more heterosexual if she tried.

Most people on campus might label my style more butch than anything else. I personally just find it devoid of any fashion-sense whatsoever. I wear men's pants. So what? It's the only way I can find an inseam long enough. What happened the last time I wore women's pants? "Hey Ciech, where's the flood?" quipped Jenny Ingebritsen `06. How mortifying. And given my family history, I see that I would not dress any more fashionably were I heterosexual.

Homosexual students don't find it easy being gay on campus, but then a lot of heterosexuals don't find it easy being straight on campus either. Several students interviewed pointed out that no one dates much at St. Olaf, and homosexuals are no exception.

I don't believe that I am any more homosexual than people are heterosexual. I feel, like most heterosexuals do about themselves, that this was not a choice I made but is instead the way I was created. I am no more proud of my sexuality than I am of my belly-button. Conversely, I support belly-buttons and everything they stand for. If I'm perverted or disgusting it's definitely not related to my sexuality. You put apple sauce on your hash-browns? "That's disgusting!" said Rebecca Gramdorf `07. Yes, I do. And I'm okay with that.

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