The term “queer” has several meanings in colloquial language. It is often an umbrella identity adopted by those whose gender and sexual identities do not fit within our predominantly cis-gendered, heteronormative society. This meaning was adopted out of the original, bare-boned definition of “queer,” defined as that which is strange or odd. The term has come to stand for a community of those that don’t confine to the norms of society when it comes to the ways they express themselves.
The College’s biggest queer community can be found in The Bridge, which is a club specifically for queer people and allies. This year’s president of the Bridge, Lily Craig `24, has been pushing for inclusivity both within the club and in the club’s integration into the rest of campus.
“Kevin, Alex, and I are currently building from the ground up. I was part of The Bridge my freshman year before it somehow dropped off the face of the earth,” Craig said.
Another queer community on campus can be found in Queer Community Circle, which meets every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Mary Low Coffeehouse. Queer Community Circle is a discussion-based gathering led by the College’s Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life, Kate Smanik.
“While I am clear that Colby is not perfect, this campus is the most open to queerness of any campus I’ve been on,” she said. “There are always people who will disdain queerness and try to limit who we can be, but in so many ways, Colby is a really good place to grow and explore identity.”
This raises the question: what does it mean to be a part of the “queer community” at Colby? Many students who identify as queer find this to be a more difficult question to answer.
“I think I [am a part of the queer community at Colby]. However, some unofficial queer groups on campus are more exclusive than others, and I am not a part of those,” student Mandie Lisco `24 said.
Lisco considers themself a part of the queer community because of their open expression of their gender identity and because they have many close friends who are openly queer. However, many people have also expressed discomfort in being openly queer on campus, which leads them to believe they are not part of the College’s queer community despite their queer identity.
“I hardly considered myself a part of Colby’s queer community, mostly because I spent a while at Colby trying to figure out my queer identity,” Lisa Enaye `22 said. “I was not out to those besides people in my inner circle because I didn’t find the queer community to be inclusive.”
“I feel a part of Colby’s queer community to the extent that I am a queer person at Colby, but I definitely feel as though there can be a lack of community feeling in general among queer people at Colby,” Ira Mukherjee `25 said.
In addition to the issue of the rest of the College community accepting its queer community, there is a level of exclusivity within the queer community itself that mirrors inequities seen in the general population.
“Colby’s queer community… tends to favor white, cis-gender, gay men. I know that people who aren’t cis always feel a little weird at the Colby pride events in April — I certainly do. I assume it’s a similar experience for queer people of color at Colby,” Lisco expressed. “I don’t think Colby’s queer community necessarily promotes one version of being gay or queer, but to me, it feels like its goals lie in making queerness palatable for the larger straight community at Colby. This means that even queer events can feel isolating and foreign for the queer people whom they claim to represent.”
Lisco is not alone in their criticisms of the College’s queer community.
“I do feel like there could be more acknowledgment and discussion around trans/non-binary issues. The queer spaces at Colby can often feel quite cisgender oriented,” Mukherjee commented.
As previously stated, these criticisms of the College’s queer community are reflective of the greater microcosm at the College.
“The Colby community is structured in a way that makes it hard for minority students to feel properly integrated despite the campus’s best efforts,” Enaye explained. “This goes for queer students as well, although you can find the occasional ally or just a person who isn’t part of the community but tries their best to understand your different experience.”
Many people perceive queerness by looking at how someone dresses, accessorizes, and does their hair. Rowan Karpa-Wilson `23 spoke to their experience being someone perceived as assigned male at birth and wearing clothing that has been societally constructed as “feminine.”
“Especially when I go out, people are always talking about [my clothes], especially like drunk compliments from strangers. And, I like that, but if you were a queer person who liked to dress the same way that I do, and you weren’t very extroverted, or you were easily overwhelmed with social interactions… it would be very easy for me to imagine that being super overwhelming and difficult,” they explained.
~ Mahika Gupta `23