Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Being a lesbian is easier in Boston

Photo Merritt Hughes
Merritt Hughes
Photo Merritt Hughes

Opinion editors are not responsible for agreeing or disagreeing with their writers but rather elevate each individual’s specific voice. 

I had a lengthy list of criteria when applying to college: good journalism program, big city, not in the South, an inclusive school, accepting city, blue state, not too big school but not too small, and somewhere that actually has winter. 

My upbringing more or less influenced all of these. I wanted to major in journalism, I wanted opportunities, and I had already done suburban life for 17 years. I had already lived in a homophobic environment for 17 years, I had watched my rights being taken away from me in Louisiana, and I was sick of it being 70 degrees in December. 

Suffice to say, Emerson fit all of these requirements, and I was accepted. To Boston I moved. 

Since moving into Little Building on August 29th, I’ve made friends, lost them, loved classes, hated them, tried new things, gone to concerts, and, all in all, had a pretty good “college experience.” But, to live this perfect first year of college, I had to move 1,400 miles away from my home in Shreveport, Louisiana. It takes two or three flights to get back home, and it is only possible if I plan a trip months in advance. 

Every time I either go home or come back to school, there is a constant feeling that I am living half a life, never fully complete where I am. My head starts to hurt when I text a college friend from my childhood bedroom. My heart is broken into parts—my parents in Louisiana, my sister in Virginia, my new friends in Boston, my high school friends everywhere. 

As much as this hurts me now to keep these spheres of my life so separated, I knew it was what I had to do. 

I selfishly chose to move twelve states away from the life I built for 18 years. I left behind my girlfriend of more than two years. I felt suffocated by my small conservative town, and I couldn’t imagine going to school there for four more years. 

Emerson is a lot of things. For me, so far, it has been opportunities, both social and professional. But more importantly, Emerson has been Boston: a city of acceptance. 

We’ve all heard the cheesy saying “The city is our campus.” I have seen that more than just in geography. So often growing up, the schools I attended physically felt limiting. The playgrounds were enclosed by fences and we had to walk through steel doors with our IDs. 

My girlfriend and I were accepted at our high school, which was a liberal bubble in our predominantly red-leaning community. But we still could never truly go anywhere in our town as a couple. Waiters gave us weird looks when we asked for one check instead of two, and sometimes they split it for us even when we asked to pay together.

I always told myself it didn’t bother me because I was not often physically threatened for my sexuality. But it did suck to watch my friends in heterosexual relationships be treated as a couple. It always felt like something was missing, but I didn’t have the experience at the time to realize what that was. 

It was weird to be in an accepting place without my girlfriend. I have always been told I am straight-passing (I am, if that’s possible), so all of my struggles with my sexuality have come from physically being with my girlfriend somewhere. I didn’t think that I would feel any different. 

It feels silly to say, but I had never seen so many queer people in one place before. Back home, there was always a gasp when a girl said “my girlfriend,” or a side-eye when someone said “my partner.” Being queer in the South was so taboo to even talk about, let alone to be. 

I cannot even remember the number of times over the last two and a half years I lied to someone, telling them I was single instead of admitting my queerness. I talked about my girlfriend as a boyfriend sometimes, but always felt light-headed in doing so. 

But all of that changed when I got to Emerson, to Boston. I finally wasn’t looked at funny when I said “my girlfriend,” and I finally didn’t have to lie for other people’s sake. It feels cliche, but I finally started to find myself. I had never felt comfortable calling myself a “lesbian,” but I am beginning to come around to it. 

I went out to dinner with my friend’s parents, and part of me still felt 16 years old. I anxiously waited for the age-old question: “So, do you have a boyfriend?” I was prepared to dismiss it and move on. To my surprise, his parents instead said, “Our son tells us your girlfriend plays soccer. What position?” 

It is nice to live somewhere with people that I don’t have to explain my sexuality to. I don’t have to apologize in advance for my queerness or shy away from such a huge part of my identity. It might have taken moving 1,400 miles away from home to realize it, but I shouldn’t have to hide myself for other people’s sake. 

As I start packing up my dorm to move home for the summer, I’m not sure how it will feel. I hope it isn’t as suffocating as high school because I am older and have had more experiences since then. But I at least know what it feels like to be fully accepted, and I don’t want to settle for less.

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About the Contributor
Merritt Hughes
Merritt Hughes, Opinion Co-Editor

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