At the beginning of high school, I had the feeling I was gay, and I was very worried about this possibility. I had seen flamboyant gay men on TV and heard about bear culture [overweight, hairy gay men that are usually dressed in shiny black leather and chains] from friends who knew the internet. I did not feel that I had much in common with these people. I felt misrepresented and confused. If I was not “gay,” how could I be gay? By the end of the year, I was more convinced I was gay, and with this realization I had to resolve the disconnection between my idea of myself and what I knew about “gayness.”
I really wanted to talk to gay people and find that I was not alone. I wanted to talk to gay people who were “like me.” I wanted to ask what it was like for them to be gay and ask them how they came out and how people reacted. Unfortunately, I did not know who else was gay. I was closeted at the time, so asking around was not an option; if I asked around, people would start thinking I was gay, and I was not ready for that.
I wished that I could simply go to a counselor. I would tell the counselor I was gay, and the counselor would open a magic book that would show me the names of all the people at my school who were gay. The book would be filled with pictures and information about them, and I could learn all about people. Then, I would choose whom I felt most comfortable with and call them up or email them. All my questions would be answered, and I would be okay with being gay. Unfortunately, there was no magical book, but I think I have created something better.
With the design guidance of my classes at Olin and the support of friends, teachers and OSL, I have created Closet Conversations. Closet Conversations is a website through which closeted and questioning students can find and anonymously message openly queer students and faculty at Babson, Olin and Wellesley. The advantage of the site over a book is that a site is more dynamic than a book, people our age are comfortable with computers and the internet, and all messaging can be done in the comfort of one’s room. One would not even need to come out to a counselor.
Sign-up is easy, and all conversations are confidential [except in cases in which we are concerned about serious self-inflicted harm]. We are not selling ourselves as professional counselors, but if one wants to talk to someone professional, the Trevor Project is great [http://www.thetrevorproject.org/].We currently have eleven people on the site, and we will have more after this coming Saturday. My goal is to attract a diverse group of student and faculty resources to the site such that anyone can find someone whom they feel they could relate to.
On February 4th, 2012, we will host training in the Crescent Room. If you would like to be a part of the site as a queer student or faculty resource, please email me, and I will make sure we have enough food. You can also sign up on the Facebook group, “Training Session.” Right now the site is inaccessible, but following this training session, I will open the site up, and everyone who was trained will be available on the site as a resource. We can answer questions such as: “How did you know you were queer?” “What was it like coming out?” and “Have things gotten better?” I encourage anyone questioning or closeted to check out the website: http://closetconversations.ning.com/
If you have questions or comments, feel free to email Colby at cdjsato at gmail.com.