I think I’m sending this to Harvard EA. I haven’t decided if it should be the common app essay or the optional one-- probably doesn’t matter. Any criticism is greatly appreciated…
(the underscore in the first paragraph is there b/c of the censor)
Today at lunch, the Gay-Straight Alliance (Ive lost half the audience to whispered conversations) is having a meeting (there goes another quarter) in Mrs. Hamiltons room. We will have a special guest-- Laura Allen graduated from Poly last year and is now a first-year at Wesleyan. She is living in a completely gender-blind (all eyes narrow) dorm (eyebrows contort), the first (on cue: everyone c_ocks their head to the side a bit) of its kind (whispers continue) in the country (snort. titter. move around in your seats MAKE NOISE). Laura will lead a discussion on her experience (my best friend averts her eyes). Everyone is welcome, please come! (The tech crew starts up the laugh track)
I move away from the podium, but before I take two steps the next announcement begins with, What do they call each other, it? This comes from the teacher of Human Sexuality & Relationships. But nobodys listening to the next announcement. Everyones shifting their weight, talking to their friends, buzzing with excitement and blatant hostility. Fantastic Im the new Smith College on campus! Ive never seen students this agitated in Morning Meeting before. Frankly, I am terrified yet I feel like a terrorist. When I look into the eyes, Im a predator, an intruder into their happy, pink-and-blue lives.
Before that morning, I hadnt known what it is like to be perceived as unlike. My world was one of Like- I was like everyone else, everyone liked me, I liked everyone. People knew that I’m straight and proud of my femininty. Because of a single radical announcement, people who I thought were my friends started laughing at my jokes in a different way. Instead of all-out laughter, their giggles changed to low chuckles of tolerance, as if they were thinking, Funny, but the weird gay genderless body is trying to infiltrate my life with a joke. I had better resist it. Crowds, that morning, slowly parted to let me pass in a horrible undulating motion- like the Red Sea, but Hellish rather than Heavenly. I felt guilty, as if I was the anti-Moses- trying to enslave rather than liberate. The cause I was discussing (not, alas, supporting) was liberation from gendered norms. The irony is not lost on me.
A few months later, I still find it difficult to shake off the perceptions which were molded and shackled to me that strange spring day. I have nightmares about seas smirking at me with self-indulgent smiles, and sometimes I wake up thinking, Will it happen again? Its been a whole summer in the life of a teenageran eternity for an idealistic young person slowly taunted by thoughts of a career, a marriage, a reputation. Ive become haunted by religion, but I stay quiet to let my newfound convictions strengthen with age and contemplation. Even some who proofread this essay told me that Id be laughed out of the door, as a Catholic who supports gay rights: a paradox, they said. A joke. Well, at least Im a thought-provoking paradox, and apparently quite a funny joke.
Thanks to all who participated in the GSA discussion with Laura yesterday. She was so impressed by the intelligent conversation we had about grassroots activism and false perceptions. I’m so glad that people of all different opinions came together and had a civil discourse. The next meeting will be next week; please come.