Queer questions: How to start the new year off right

Dear New Queer Students,
Welcome to the 7th Most LGBTQ+ Friendly college in the United States! Not the most glamorous of titles, but it’s still a magical place. The next few years are going to be an unbelievable journey. What you will soon find out is that being queer (especially at Emerson) is a lot of work both emotionally and physically. I write this letter to you as one queer student to another in hopes of making your journey a bit easier than mine. 
The dreaded word “masturbation.” It’s an awkward thing to write about it. What Hollywood movie romanticizes masturbation? It’s usually a gag in a comedy where one character walks in on another “going to town” with themselves. Yet, for queer individuals it can be super important in becoming more comfortable with our bodies. Sometimes we can be made to feel that the way we share intimacy is wrong or even dirty. This leads to some awkward hook-ups because we often don’t know what feels good or what doesn’t. So take time to figure that out. You may not have a significant other to invite over, but it doesn’t mean you can’t save some time to explore yourself.
Recently, I was watching a TV show with some friends and the popular Trojan condom commercial came on. You know, the one with the adorable heterosexual couple who start getting hot and heavy when the girl asks if the guy has a condom. Then he goes to ask his roommate for one who responds with a sports reference about always being prepared. I was laughing until the next commercial was the serious MTV PSA about STD/STI victims and people living with HIV. Talk about a mood killer, but it gave my friends and me a jumping point to have an important discussion.
Getting tested can be scary, but it can literally save your life. Our generation may have been born after the AIDS epidemic and the horror that killed thousands of queer people, but we are not removed from that reality— there are still 1.2 million people with this disorder in the United States alone. The Center for Health and Wellness provides free condoms and STI screenings. Walk in and always know your status.  
Last semester I was hanging out at this guy’s dorm. He was super nice and not unattractive. We each had a drink or two when we asked if he could kiss me. I casually said something like “sure” when deep down I was like “Thank God! I don’t think I can watch one more second of this football game.” After a few minutes of making out my mind began to wander. I remembered I had left laundry in the dryer, that I should get milk when I went to the store next, and that I had to wish my cousin a “Happy Birthday” on Facebook.
Clothes began to come off when I had to stop. If you ever need another dry martini to get through sex with someone, it’s probably not the best. Hooking up can be fun, but if you aren’t enjoying it, you can say so and leave! There was nothing wrong with the guy or myself—we just didn’t click. The best sex is when both parties are completely honest about who they are and what they like. 
In my orientation group one brave soul posted in the Facebook page asking about everyone’s sexuality. The thread had over 600 comments from students. For some, it was a great comfort to know that there were so many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. For me, I was excited to scope out potential new boyfriends. As I was casually stalking the entire male population of the Class of 2018 through their Facebook profiles, I soon realized that many of these students were probably similar to me. They came from small, suburban towns with the hope that college would be a fresh start. Emerson gave me an opportunity to be known for something other than my sexuality and I think it will do the same for you. 
As progressive as Emerson is and is becoming, it’s still not where it could be. We just established inclusive restrooms! We get it, we live in a heteronormative world, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have access to the same high-quality resources as our straight counterparts. The Center for Health and Wellness and Violence Prevention and Response are amazing resources, but they aren’t always equipped to handle LGBTQ+ physical and mental health needs. Fenway Health in Boston is one of the best places for queer people because of their extensive services from LGBT family and parenting, transgender health, and HIV/AIDS care and services to name a few. Their whole mission is providing the highest quality healthcare for LGBTQ+ individuals. 
Your life may not be like Queer as Folk, the Showtime series featuring a group of gay friends, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find a gaggle of gays to hang out with once in awhile. As great as your friends who are straight might be, there are things that only queer people can understand. Not because they don’t care or don’t want to understand, but because it’s not a part of their experience. And that’s okay. Emerson’s Alliance for Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone is a great place to start. It took me three years before I ventured to a meeting, so it’s okay if you’re not comfortable at the moment. Just know that it’s a safe space if you ever need it. 
With love,
P.S. Have LGBTQ+ and queer related questions? Write to me and I’ll answer them anonymously in my monthly Question and Answer.