Since being sent to live with my family in March, I have been trying to keep myself alive. I am gay and have been forced to live with my religiously conservative and homophobic family. I fear for my safety.
As we all wait for the University to announce its plan for spring, I do not wonder alongside my classmates who will be invited back to campus; instead, I worry. I worry because I know that if my class is not invited back, I will have to apply for emergency housing again.
I am trying to convince myself that I am entitled to feel safe. I am trying to listen to the voices of my therapist and friends. I am trying to rewrite my brain. I am trying to believe that my entitlement to security and safety is not conditional. That I deserve to feel safe now, as I am, not only if I “fix” myself and “become” straight, crush every impulse of self, and subdue my will for the will of my parents. “No,” I am trying to tell myself. “My family is wrong. They are misguided and ill-informed and they do not know what I am learning: that love has no bounds. Love knows no limit and bars no one from entry.”
I am trying to allow myself to feel loved and feel capable of being loved despite the years of self-loathing built into my skin, despite the fact that being gay makes me feel shameful and disgusted and confused and lonely and existentially at odds with any familiar version of God.
None of this is easy. But I am trying. I am trying to enjoy my classes. I am trying to push my shame not only to the back of my mind, but out of mind and heart and soul altogether. I am trying to imagine how it might feel outside of the confines of these structures that are suffocating me. I am trying to be okay.
Only, it is hard to carve out little bubbles of safety, tiny pockets of happiness, and spaces where I can just be, in the face of rejections from the University. It becomes harder to convince myself that I am worthy of love and safety and care. How can I believe my therapist when they tell me I am in an emergency situation when the University denied my application for emergency housing? How can I secure alternate housing when every University official I talk to says I should out myself and out myself again and again, or “Oh, you should really reach out to so-and-so.” Sometimes, I will listen. I will say I am gay. Other times, I will simply say I have a complicated home life. In between work and classes, I will email and explain. I will email and beg. I will email and pour out my heart to the total stranger who is the University administrator on the other end. I will email and out myself just one more time.
Each time I will explain the feelings I have still not yet worked out for myself. I will pretend that I want help. I will pretend that I still believe it can get better. I will pretend that I believe I am worthy of help. And each time I will hear: “Sorry.” “You missed the deadline.” “You are not eligible.” “You do not qualify for this fund.” And each time I will respond: “I understand. Thank you for your help.” Or maybe, “Thank you so much for your help!!”
I am unable to keep trying to advocate for myself. The jig is up. I cannot keep pretending that I care anymore. I cannot keep trying to believe I am worthy. The University cannot help me. No one will say this, of course — instead, they will refer me to someone else, but this is the truth. As Kristal Grant ’24 articulated in her column, “The consequences of being a queer Princeton student during a pandemic,” dependency override is not widely accessible for students. I was told it would be hard to receive. I am not eligible for aid because I am a dependent of my parents, yet at the same time I am deterred from trying to declare independence from my parents.
The message could not be clearer. The University is telling me the same thing I have told myself for years, the same thing everyone in my family and hometown would tell me if they knew: Stay in the closet. Do it. Just for a little longer. Just until you graduate. Do what you need to do to get your parents to keep paying your tuition. Do what you need to do to get your parents to support you living away from them. Be straight. Do the things your parents insist you do, even though your therapist says they are unreasonable. Do it.
I will not call on you, Princeton, to do better. I will not ask for help. I will not make my case again. I will not send one more email. I will not ask you to care more, to do more, to be more, because I already know how it ends.
Thank you so much for your help.
Editor’s Note: The author of this column was granted anonymity due to the intensely personal nature of the events described and potential for retaliation or harm.