The first question I received when I told people I was going to attend Meredith College was whether I was going because I’m bisexual, since it’s an “all-girls school.” The short answer is, no, that is not the only reason. I can be bisexual anywhere, and wouldn’t it be more realistic for me to attend a co-ed institution, as a bisexual? Yes, yes, it would. Prior to coming to Meredith, I was under the impression that Meredith was going to be a safe space to be a member of the LGBTQIA community because it’s a liberal arts college. I am not the only one who felt this way. When asked about her impressions of Meredith’s potential to be welcoming, Mackenzie Ulibarri said that she “didn’t think it would be a judgmental or negative place to be, as it is a liberal arts college.” This sentiment rang true through most of the students who were asked this question; however, an anonymous student stated, “I’m not from the South, so I honestly had a lot of worries about the sociopolitical climate and whether or not I would be able to be out [as pansexual] at a college in the South.” This concern wasn’t based on anything she had heard about Meredith as a community, but more based upon the general atmosphere of Southern states. Meredith used to be affiliated with the Southern Baptist Church, and if you know anything about the Southern Baptist Church, you know they do not support the gays. Therefore, a reasonable conclusion to draw is that Meredith does not support the gays. Despite Meredith losing its religious affiliation, there are many students here whose mothers and grandmothers went to Meredith during its affiliated times and carry the same beliefs as their angel relatives do. This being said, not everyone who fits this criterion is homophobic, and, believe me, religion is not the only reason people are not willing to support the gays. In past experiences, people have not supported the queer community for reasons ranging from the fact that it makes them uncomfortable to saying that it is not evolutionarily compatible. However, the “Meredith girl” stereotype is the same type of girl who made me feel uncomfy for being bi in high school. This makes Meredith a confusing space for me, and not just for this reason.
When speaking to this same anonymous student, it came up in conversation how difficult it can be to determine if another student is not straight at Meredith because there is not a way to directly observe an interaction between them and a male. While this might seem sexist, you would be surprised at how much hair-twirling there is when you pay attention. The observation of this interaction helps give hints towards a girl’s sexual orientation; therefore, at Meredith, there is barely any way to determine a person’s sexuality without directly asking them. You might ask why asking is not a viable solution. It is not a good solution because if someone is not gay or bi, there is a relatively high chance they might take offense and no one wants that to happen. The likelihood that a person would take offense is higher in the South than on Meredith’s campus specifically, but not significantly higher. Nonetheless, the nerves of hitting on a girl are the same nerves that occur in heterosexual interactions and, therefore, everyone can understand the hesitations; no one wants to get rejected! All of this considered, it is difficult to determine a person’s sexuality, without asking, in the outside world as well. Not every person who is gay fits the stereotype, and not everyone who fits the stereotype is gay. Therefore, I think I can speak for the gays when I say, come up and ask, the worst we can say is no.
By Ell Shelp-Peck, Staff Writer