In a 2020 essay for The Tulane Hullabaloo, Shahamat Uddin observed that college is “the beaming light at the end of the tunnel” for many closeted high-schoolers:
Confined to small suburban hometowns and stifled by the ignorance of our young peers, we knew that there was a version of ourselves just waiting for a moment to be on its own. We could finally flourish and thrive in the fruitful and all-encompassing gay life pop culture promised us.
(That one song-and-dance scene from Love, Simon—mentioned in one of the tweets below—comes to mind.)
For some queer young adults, college does indeed offer that freedom to flourish and thrive. Jor-El Caraballo, an LGBTQ-centric therapist who co-created Viva Wellness, told Elite Daily in 2018 that college-bound LGBTQ students can expect “a sense of relief in sharing a part of yourself with others that has remained hidden for long”—and that “opening up in [in college] can lead you to more intimate and fulfilling relationships which may be the foundation for years to come.”
But gay college life presents its own set of challenges. Uddin, for example, struggled to find community at Tulane. “I had hoped to come to college and meet people organically, but when compounded with an overwhelmingly straight party culture reinforced by Greek life, it felt like the only way to meet other gay people was through dating apps—and thereby hooking up,” he wrote.
In a blog post about being gay at Dartmouth this May, meanwhile, student Jack Heaphy observed that the school has a “overarching heteronormative culture” but is otherwise comfortable. “The only issue I have faced is sometimes being tokenized or treated differently in a non-malicious way from my straight peers,” he wrote. “Some girls will immediately try and treat me like a ‘gay best friend,’ without actually getting to know me for who I am, on both smaller and larger scales.”
Sophia Lola also experienced heteronormativity at Johns Hopkins. “All my worrying that people might treat me badly or differently for being queer, I hadn’t realized it would no longer even be a given that I was queer at all,” Lola wrote in a 2019 essay for The Johns Hopkins News-Letter.
The tweets below—most of which are light-hearted—show the vast range of experiences of being gay in college. Some people see the rainbows, and others just try to get by… while keeping their scented candles hidden away. (And no one seems to be having big song-and-dance numbers in the quad.)
Being gay in college is just so much easier don’t @ me
— Lucy (@lucyyy_kat) December 7, 2020
The more I think about it the more I realize that being gay in college was the worst
— Ryan????Kamen Rider Spooky Nap (@DearestZeus) August 13, 2018
Being gay in college was my favorite because I KNEW there were so many people in the closet doing the nasty behind sheds and in cars, thinking they were being slick.
— Val (Actually Back in Drag) Halla (@ValerieValHalla) August 7, 2021
miss being gay in college holding my silly little tote bag doing my silly little tasks
— fertile soil (@raffybun) November 13, 2020
the hardest part of being gay in college is not being allowed to have scented candles in my dorm room
— ? (@horridhag) January 7, 2020
Being gay in college and forced to dorm with straight men is literally like the worst punishment ever
— xtxcxs (@xtxcxs) February 26, 2021
One of the weirdest things about being gay in college is seeing “str8” guys you’ve hooked up with on campus with their straight dude bros and it’s like… I’ve see ur butthole
— jeff gayzos (@eelliiddvv) March 13, 2019
i love how some of the first advice i heard on being gay in college was just bc a girl is cool and hot doesn’t mean you have to make things gay bc you need totally platonic friends too and then i just completely ignored that
— super chill laid-backed girl (@fairyrat69) September 3, 2021
One thing about college I was not expecting is the fact that I like being gay a lot less than I did in high school
— Collin (@NotCollinLol) September 30, 2022
ok but i have so many feelings about that scene in love, simon when he thinks about being gay in college. as a closeted high school student i can guarantee this is what i was hoping college would be. pic.twitter.com/aqA0nESHx6
— ?kody ? lost in the (tbr) sauce (@kitschykody) July 23, 2018
love being gay in college when professors talk about camp. like professor pls step down, i can take over from here
— aziliz (@runtomeluvr) February 28, 2022
being gay in HS / being gay in college pic.twitter.com/dsVspayHTX
— Scooter (@Noiseehippie) March 8, 2021
everyone is a few drinks away from being gay in college
— am-b? (@discardedplate) March 5, 2020
I was 18 and a freshman in college. I took a dance class as my gym elective and “SURPRISE!” there was a gay man in the class. We became friends and when he first kissed me…. WOW!!! Being in Oklahoma, I assumed I’d have to live a closeted life. Glad I was wrong.
— Pocket Protector 🏳🌈🤿 🏕 ⛷🔬👨🔬 (@Nerdy70) October 2, 2022