BY SHAYNA DEMICK
Trigger warning: Mentions of sexual assault.
I lived 12 years of my life certain that I was heterosexual. I lived the following six years certain that I was not heterosexual, but I was attracted to men. When I was 18, I realized that I was never attracted to men. I have now lived the past year of my life being openly lesbian and proud of it.
Although I had consciously recognized that I was lesbian before I started college last fall, I wanted to believe that I was pansexual.
Right before move-in day, I had my nails painted the colors of the pansexual flag. I made my first two friends in college because of my nails. We bonded over our queer identities and it felt amazing to connect with people who understood me. I had a long talk with one of them after only knowing each other for a few hours. It was because of this talk that I finally became confident in identifying as a lesbian.
Not long after this epiphany came Oct. 11: National Coming Out Day. For the first time, I felt that I was ready to come out to the world. I texted my friends and family and told them the news. It was well received for the most part. I was overjoyed about being able to be my authentic self.
Strangely enough, in the two days after coming out, three men asked me on dates. I was never popular with men. I found it hilarious that men were suddenly interested in me. Over the rest of the school year, I learned that as a lesbian, I attract men. This was a disturbing but enticing situation. For most of my life, I have sought male validation. Now that I had the opportunity to receive this validation, I was eager to do just that.
I hoped to be the person that men admired from afar but did not approach. I wanted to feel accepted by the male gaze without having to interact with men. Achieving this balance was not so simple in reality. When I went to frat parties, I did so for male validation. However, I didn’t actually want to get hit on.
On one occasion, I was asked for my Snapchat and responded “I’m gay,” yet the guy asked me again. On another occasion, I was asked to dance and said no, but the guy lingered and stared at me for a long time.
The biggest grievance that I’ve had with being lesbian at this university is that people do not take my identity seriously. The men that I’ve known often believe that I can be swayed, though this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
One night last April, I was in my residence hall lounge with a male student who knew that I was lesbian. He had come into the lounge seemingly intoxicated and tried to convince me that I liked men. He asked me if I was sure that I wasn’t straight and I made it very clear that I was a lesbian and therefore not interested in him or any other man. My dissent meant nothing to him. That night, he violated me and disrespected my identity. I felt that I had no choice but to report him to the university police the next morning.
Struggling with trauma and fearing for my safety, I packed my bags and spent five days in the university’s emergency housing. After over a month of dealing with student conduct, I had a mutual ban from contact issued by the university, and he was charged with violating the university’s Disruptive Conduct Policy. He was no longer allowed to access my residence hall.
For the rest of the spring semester, I struggled with my mental health and platonic relationships with men. I lost faith in the men at this school and was frankly scared of what they might do to me. If I could be assaulted in my own residence hall lounge, was I ever really safe on this campus? That was a terrifying thought and one that led me to avoid social gatherings for the rest of the year.
I felt that the school’s response to my assault was not adequate in terms of keeping me safe and taking action toward the man who traumatized me.
Many months have passed since this experience and I have healed immensely. Though I still feel fear towards this man, I have not let this traumatic experience stop me from being proud of my identity. In fact, I have put more effort into making it known that I am lesbian. I am confident in who I am and I’m proud of myself for enduring the difficulties of my coming out journey.
I hope that the other LGBTQ+ students at the university do not go through the same difficulties that I did and that they find safe spaces and communities where they can love themselves and feel loved.
Shayna is an opinion columnist at The Review. Her opinions are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review staff. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.