Princeton University is a place of change for many. As they come of age, first-years from many different walks of life are brought together into a community of learning and understanding. For some queer-identifying students, the University has been a space where they have been able to be more true to who they are. For this series of photos and interviews, we asked students to give us a look into a space where they feel the most comfortable in their identity and tell us a little bit about their experiences being queer at the University.
The responses have been lightly edited for clarity and concision. The ‘Prince’ granted anonymity was granted in a number of cases due to the sensitive and personal nature of identities described.
How has your experience with being a queer-identifying individual been at Princeton?
Princeton has been a place where I could truly explore my queerness. I came from a very rural conservative area, and there my only option was to not think about it or hide it. Since coming here and being surrounded by a queer community through my theater company, I feel not only do I not have to hide my queerness, but I can be proud of it.
- Alexis Maze ’23 (she/they)
I wasn’t sure what to expect because I come from a really queerphobic area. It took a lot of getting used to before I realized I could openly and safely be myself. I’ve been able to have both personal and intellectual conversations about LGBTQ+ experiences with a wide range of people. CisHet, queer, student, faculty, and everything in between.
- Anonymous (they/them)
I’ve been able to find an incredibly welcoming community here that I couldn’t really find in my hometown. I don’t have to hide parts of myself that may appear queer and I am able to turn to friends in full confidence when I encounter situations where I do not feel safe because of my identity.
- Jasmyn Dobson ’24 (she/they)
I have realized that people in Princeton feel inclined to compare my experience to that of other gays on this campus, and even my brown South Asian friends are complicit in this. My experience, however, is far removed from the experiences of other gays on this campus.
There is no monolithic way to be gay here at Princeton or elsewhere. I am unapologetically gay — and in my own right. There is a profound disconnect between my experiences and the experiences of white gay men, despite our shared gay identity.
I end with this plea: please show some love to your non-white gay friends and seek to understand us in our own right. We are doubly marginalized!
Awesome (in terms of inclusivity), though still personally daunting to navigate how I feel about myself existing day to day. But I have never felt shame from something anyone else has said or done to me surrounding my identity and I’m very grateful for that.
- Abby de Riel ’22 (she/they)
Princeton is a place where someone can navigate several distinct spaces and communities each with their own set of rules, boundaries, commonalities. In some of those, I feel comfortable in this part of my identity. In others it never surfaces. Nevertheless, seeing students be so fully themselves here has given me more comfort in finding my own sense of self.
Princeton has been the first place in my life where I feel safe being out. I have been surrounded by so many other queer people that are so open and proud about their identity. It was a bit jarring to see people so open especially coming from a small rural community but I have never felt so loved and accepted by my community.
- Ella Weber ’25 (she/her)
During my time as a varsity athlete at Princeton, I faced discrimination for my sexuality. I found community and support in the members of my eating club, Tower Club, as well as in theater.
- AJ Lonski ’23 (he/him)
In comparison to ... memories at home, Princeton has been a breath of fresh air, or even the fresh air itself. In all honesty, it’s not easy to be gay here.
But, right now, I want to spend a moment of thankfulness on the queer students at Princeton who have fought like hell to make this place home. When I think of Princeton’s queer community, I think of the late nights I’ve spent talking about love and loss with my best friends, strangers who’ve DMed me to ask for help or advice on being out here or how to navigate relationships with people back home who might not support your identities, time I’ve spent with queer friends in my eating club, the resiliency of people like AJ Lonski who have spoken up against homophobia they’ve encountered on campus, the multitude of group chats I’ve been in just to say hi and I love you to other people like me, the labor of those involved in the Pride Alliance, gay poems spoken with feeling on my slam poetry team, and the graduate students and professors who would do pretty much anything to see queer students succeed. Shit might suck sometimes. But god! It’s good to find each other here, and I’m so glad I’ve had that.
- AG McGee ’22
McGee is a former managing editor, de Riel is copy staffer, and Dobson is a staff news writer for The Daily Princetonian.