high school retrospective

On Facebook recently, someone I went to high school with (I'll call him Friedrich) messaged me wondering about my profile. He wanted to know if my "interested in: women" was a joke or actuality.

I know it probably should be obvious, but I was actually somewhat surprised to find out that I was not the only queer that went to Eastchester.

Eastchester is your prototypical WASP-y private academy. I can count on one hand the number of students that weren't white when I was there, and religious diversity only extended to Protestant denomination. The vast majority of the families were upper-middle-class (if not downright filthy-rich) conservative white evangelicals.

I was notable among the student body (which was tiny; my graduating class was thirty-seven people) for being an outspoken liberal. I was recruited for the debate team because I'd developed a well-earned reputation for being argumentative and articulate. My Bible teachers tended to regard me with a mix of amusement and exasperation. Most of my classmates tended to think that "love the sinner, hate the sin" was downright progressive, and there I was unapologetically identifying myself as a feminist and a non-Republican. Frankly, I'd be surprised if there were never rumors about a deeper meaning to my love of comfortable shoes.

It actually wasn't that difficult to maintain a "straight facade." The student body being as small as it was, there actually wasn't much dating on-campus; I was never questioned about my lack of boyfriends because hardly any girls did have one. I wasn't visibly butch, since for a long time I maintained long hair. Mostly, though, there was an underlying assumption of default heterosexuality that no one bothered to question. The idea that one of their classmates might be gay simply never occured to them for the most part because homosexuality was something that occurred Out There, not In Here where it's Normal. As long as you didn't raise the question yourself, no one would think to ask it.

In some ways I guess I fell for the same thinking, because before I told any of my friends I felt horribly alone and isolated. Nobody else seemed to be asking the same questions about their sexuality that I was. For most girls, it seemed to be a question of which boy and how far to go. For me, it was who I wanted and why, and if I would ever find a chance to go anywhere at all. I assumed my classmates were all essentially straight.

Friedrich apparently thought that he too was "the only one who escaped the gender-unfriendly brainwashing of the [...] fire and brimstone empire," as he put it. He made the point that both of us were seen as "discontents," which is pretty accurate, though in his case it was for being publically atheist.

I have to wonder if being gay in high school, for us, was a reason for the discontent. When you find yourself questioning the most basic tenets upon which your educational society operates, like "girls go with boys, full stop," there's precious little stopping you from questioning secondary concerns like whether chapel attendance should be mandatory, or whether the Creationism Vs. Evolution class is composed of pure bullshit.

I wonder, then, who else was simply trying to blend in as hard as they could. Whoever did it was pretty convincing since I never gaydared anyone positively, though I had my guesses. I knew of a couple of bisexual (to some extent; both are currently dating men) girls, but no one else. Friedrich says he had "more than suspicions" but no solid evidence, though given the environment I'd be more surprised if there were any. I can't say I'd be totally shocked to go to a class reunion to see at least one other person bringing a same-sex spouse, but I'd probably be surprised to find out which one.

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thus saith Liadan at 1:10 AM


Anonymous kelly beth saith at 1/23/2007 12:05 PM...  

i went to a school that was very much like that, and it followed me to another school, where i picked up a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend this time, and the short hair didn't help. catholic schools weren't a fun time.

i just found your blog searching for a replacement journal, the brand being "readables" and everything save for what i was looking for popped up.

take care.

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