College is a magical realm over the rainbow and a world away from Deerfield.
Here at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the pride flag is framed in the entrance to the Student Alumni Union, and small rainbow flags line the student bulletin boards.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I not only feel welcomed, but also I sense a distinct lack of other-ness that tends to follow those who fall outside the norm.
At my graduation from Deerfield last year, I wore a suit and tie in place of the typical white dress and flower women usually wear. This is because I believe women should feel free to wear what they choose, no matter what others may assume.
I believe that gender expression should not be inhibited by out- of-date standards like our current dress code.
Gender-queer or gender questioning people, upon stepping onto Deerfield campus, are forced to make a very public, very bold statement about their identity. This forced statement is something
exceedingly daunting when around 78% of trans youth face significant abuse at school, according to a study by the University of Iowa. In college, people wear whatever they feel like wearing and, surprisingly, it never seems to get in the way of anyone’s education.
Deerfield operates on the idea that standards for men and women should be decidedly separate. The library displays two statues exemplifying the “Deerfield Boy” and the “Deerfield Girl,” dorms are strictly gendered, and visitations are fundamentally heteronormative.
If a straight person wants to spend time with a member of the opposite gender, they need only follow the ordinary rules; non- heterosexual people are faced with a moral dilemma. They must first ask themselves whether they trust their hall resident enough to disclose their identity, something many kids don’t even feel safe to tell their families.
According to a study by the University of Chicago, LGBTQ+ youth face more than twice the average rate of homelessness in the US, which is largely attributed to unsupportive families kicking out their children.
On top of that, in their visitations requests, they disclose the orientation of the other person as well. If others on the hall notice the trashcan or shoe in the door, both of them are “outed” to the hall, and we all know how rumors spread. Finally, technically, this means that no other same-gender person on the hall can enter their room without visitations permission. A truly welcoming community would not support this sort of alienation.
But again, this brings into question the purpose of visitations. The idea behind having a process is to protect students from unsafe sexual interactions. But the underlying assumption in this setup is that any member of the opposite gender would only care to enter your room if they intend to have sex. Similarly, it also assumes that any member of
the same gender wouldn’t ever intend to have sex. Visitations create uncomfortable stigmas about opposite gender friendships and unfair expectations for same gender relationships.
People who fall outside the majority should not need to feel like a burden to the rest of the community. Gay people shouldn’t need to follow a meticulous and otherwise anxiety-inducing process that only further isolates them from both the hall and the broader student body.
I’ve found that many students are afraid of straying from campus norms lest they become estranged from the community. Being original on such a campus means accepting that eyes will be on you, a lot. Furthermore, the Academy’s notions of acceptable gender norms highlights Deerfield’s resistance to change. I’m a strong advocate of creating a more equitable system: gender-neutral bathrooms and, at long last, a gender-neutral dress code. The solution to visitations is a complicated one, but I believe
working towards a gender-neutral campus begins with at least one gender-neutral dorm. Visitations won’t be required and anyone of any identity can live there. This could serve as a trial run toward expanding the idea of gender- neutral housing. At the very least, there can be no progress until some attempts are made. These inequitable standards have held up for too long, and it’s time to test and implement policies that help solve the issues rather than perpetuate them.
P.S. To any DA student reading this: remember that your self- worth is not defined by anybody but yourself. Continue to listen to others’ ideas and challenge your own–but don’t be afraid to challenge other ideas too. Deerfield can be a daunting place, but you reserve the right to be unapologetically you. Let nobody tell you otherwise. If you have an opinion, express it, discuss it, and always fight for what you believe in. You make your own path through Deerfield; I know I did.