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On coming out at MIT

Coming Out at MIT



This column is about being gay at MIT. Read it. It doesn't matter what your own sexual orientation is, nor your opinion about gays in general. I have written this to try to help some of the more confused people in the MIT community, and also because I've been with The Tech for a long time, and always have wanted to write a column. Because this isn't a perfect world (yet), I've not signed my name to this column. I have enough worries with my classes, UROP, and life in general without having to deal with prank calls on my answering machine.

So you're here at MIT. You're a freshman, an upperclassman, or even a graduate student. You've settled into the term's activities, and you're beginning to think about your social life. And, although it may be hard for you to deal with, you're gay. You may keep it deep inside -- you may try to hide it underneath cloaks of heterosexuality, such as ROTC, a fraternity, maybe a varsity sport.

Pretending to be straight can actually be very easy at MIT. At MIT, the pressures to get a date, go out steadily with one other person, and have sex are reduced because everyone is so busy with classes, activities, and projects. After a while, though, it begins to explode inside of you. You want to be able to meet people who are gay, have gay friends, and enjoy the companionship of gay people.

I knew I was gay since eighth grade, but it took me until November of my freshman year to finally do something about it. People often ask how I "knew" I was gay -- most people tend to believe homosexuality stems from a concious decision made at a point in life. I never had a chance to make the decision. As long as I can remember, my sexual feelings were directed towards men instead of women.

During high school, I kept these feelings hidden. Once I came to MIT, though, it was different. I started dating a girl, and realized, for the umpteenth time, that women just didn't turn me on. So I finally called the GAMIT contact line.

For a lot of people first coming out, the "first step" of actually talking to a gay person about being gay is the hardest part. I got pretty drunk before I had the nerve to call. Many people call and just hang up. Others can't seem to say anything. There are so many things that people are unsure about, and so many questions on their mind that they don't know where to start. So, as a community service, I'll answer some of the most-asked questions:

Am I gay? Well, if you've summoned up the nerve to call GAMIT, there must be some question in your mind. No one is 100 percent gay or 100 percent straight. Everyone lies somewhere between the two. Most people seem to be biased toward one side, however, and if you've been having feelings about being gay for a long time, you're probably closer to the gay side.

What will my friends/parents/living group think if they find out? In terms of friends, if someone is truly a friend, they shouldn't care. Living groups and parents are sometimes a different matter. Personally, I have been very lucky. I have never had any problems with friends, nor with my living group.

Your parents' reaction depends a lot on their background. I had very few problems with my parents, yet I have a friend whose parents sent him away to a faith-healing "cure center," to remove this "mark of Satan" from him. Since you probably know your parents better than anyone else, you probably have the best idea of how they will react.

What will ROTC think? Well, I was in ROTC freshman year, and to be blunt, ROTC sucks when it comes to accepting gays. Although MIT "does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation" (and a host of other things), ROTC does, and will throw out anyone whom it finds gay.

This stands out as another apparent sign that MIT is willing to sacrifice ethics and ideals for money. There were gay people in ROTC when I was a cadet, there are gay people in ROTC now, and there will continue to be gay people in ROTC in the future: All of them are forced to remain closeted to retain their scholarship.

What about religion? I had no formal religious education, and never went to church as a child. There are people in GAMIT from every major religion, and many still practice actively. If you want to talk to someone about dealing with homosexuality from a religious point of view, the GAMIT contact line can put you in contact with someone.

Love/Sex? Love and sex is not something to be discussed in the pages of The Tech, but it still remains one of the overriding things which bring people out of the closet. I never understood much about love until I came out, when very suddenly I was made aware of what I had been missing.

One thing that often happens to people who come out later in life is that they go through all the typical adolescent love problems, i.e. having a crush on someone, wanting to go steady, etc. This is fine when you are 15 or 16 years old, but when you're 23 and a graduate student, it can be hard to deal with.

Why did I bother writing this column? To bring people out. There are always new people at GAMIT. Some freshmen show up the second day of rush week -- some people wait until three days before their graduation. There are people who were never out while they were at MIT; they show up after they've been away for a couple years. Waiting does nothing, except make your life more miserable. I've observed this happening for nearly two years now, and people are much happier after they come out. If you think you're gay, if you know, if you're just wondering, feel free to call.

If you want to talk to someone, the GAMIT contact line is available nearly 24 hours a day, at 253-5440. Nightline is also a good resource, at 253-7840. GAMIT has informal study breaks in the GAMIT lounge, 50-306, every Thursday night, from 8-11pm, and discussion meetings, every Sunday at 5pm in the GAMIT lounge. For other information, call the Contact Line, or read the GAMIT bullitin board in the Infinite Corridor.