I’m incredibly proud that the College has been named one of the bravest campuses for LGBTQ students in the South (Campus Pride, 2014). God knows that the South needs safe spaces for those that don’t identify as heterosexual, and I’m saying that as a South Carolinian that has always lived in the Palmetto State.
Growing up, I realized early on that I wasn’t living in an environment that would accept lifestyles different than the perceived norm. I was accustomed to being around people who considered evolution an obscene word, stomped their boots to Toby Keith with a Busch Light in one hand, and turned their noses up at anything that wasn’t heterosexual.
Now I don’t think that the people that I grew up with are inherently bad or hateful. Those same people are the ones that will knock on your door a day after they hear of a relative passing to bring you fried chicken or lasagna as a way to give their condolences. When tragedy strikes, everyone bans together in these small but tight-knit communities. Although when it comes to people who aren’t heteronormative, there’s a lack of understanding anything that is different from what they’re used to.
When the preacher tells you that something is sinful on Sunday mornings, you believe him. You put your arms up and praise Jesus without a second thought. Even if the only Biblical evidence he’s using to support his claim comes from the Leviticus, a chapter in the Old Testament. But no one brings up the verses from Leviticus that says if a man lieth, in biblical terms, with a slave woman promised to another man then she will be whipped but he can just bring a ram to a priest for forgiveness. Or that Leviticus says that even tattoos are not okay under old biblical law either. Obviously, as a society, we’ve moved past the unforgiving words of the Old Testament.
That distaste for anything that wasn’t heteronormative didn’t contain itself just to the churches. I often heard hate speech in high school, and once got into an argument with a guy when he said that if he had a gay son in the future that he’d kick him out of his house.
“Wouldn’t you care if you had a gay kid?” he demanded.
“Not really. I don’t know why that would matter,” I replied.
“Well, what would your husband think?”
“I don’t know. Let me go call him real quick,” I said sarcastically. He turned away, feeling either flustered or aggravated. I couldn’t tell, but I didn’t care either way. Not only was his argument hateful towards homosexual men, but it assumed that if I ever decide to get married to a man that I won’t be an equal partner with my husband. That my husband will end up dominating me, and all of the decisions that are made.
This environment frustrated me, but it never made me feel unsafe or unwelcome. Yet I know it wasn’t like that for everyone. Last year, during all of the Fun Home madness that erupted when legislators tried to cut funding from the College for essentially giving out books that dealt with a homosexual narrative that our own government officials weren’t mature enough to handle but college freshman were, I went to plenty of rallies and protests in support of academic freedom at the College. At one of them I got to hear another student, who is a lesbian, that went to the same high school as me speak about how she came to College of Charleston to escape homophobia. I know that I came to the College because I wanted to be around people who are more open minded, but for others our campus is a place that LGBTQ students can feel safe and accepted.
I know that the College still has some miles to cover when including other students of various sexualities or gender identifications. Our institution could use more gender neutral bathrooms for students that identify as transgender and don’t feel safe in the restroom. Some students could be more accepting of a roommate who isn’t heterosexual, so that person doesn’t have to keep moving to different dorms during the already tough transition of freshman year.
While there’s always room for improvement, we should all be proud of the welcoming environment at the College. Not only do we go to a beautiful school in the midst of the one of the best cities in the world, but we also can immerse ourselves in an environment that anyone can flourish in. And that’s something to brag about.
Ashley Sprouse is a chai tea addict and boston terrier enthusiast. When she isn’t counting down the days to her 21st birthday, she can be found eating pizza or walking her dog around campus. She is a Columnist at CisternYard News and freelance writer at Charleston City Paper. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyysprouse, but you can’t follow her on Tumblr. Just because she doesn’t understand how to use Tumblr.