By K.J. Holton
By the time he was 15, Senior Finn La’akea Reyes knew who he was. Now at the age of 22, he is even more sure of himself. Though he has encountered some challenges when he first came out, Reyes faced a new obstacle: Being gay in college.
The first step on a college campus as an openly gay male can be difficult, but Reyes has enjoyed his time in Owings Mills and appreciates the resources the school offers. He stated, “We have… diversity and inclusion, we have Q group which is our queer club. There is a decent number of gay students on campus so it’s not like a marginalized group or anything like that.”
Most people will notice the array of different people with various backgrounds, personalities, and ideas in college. These differences have helped Reyes become closer with individuals at school, however, it has also separated him. Reyes, who originally transferred from Goucher College, chose Stevenson to pursue fashion merchandising.
Senior Carlos Richardson is another openly gay male on campus who “never felt like an outsider.” Richardson described being gay on campus as neither positive or negative. “Stevenson is pretty accepting. I never thought of being super open about it until I came to college. So, it definitely gave me that comfortability,” he said.
Though both these students find comfort at the school, Reyes believes the eccentric style on campus is often difficult to wrap his head around. He believes because there are both conservatives and liberal people at the school there is a stalemate with both values.
According to Reyes, the university does not put a lot of emphasis on the gay community because it would turn off some of the conservative people. Though they have the resources, he believes there can still be more done. He said, “I think they can focus a lot more in queer shoes…just to… educate people more on it…we don’t even have a gender studies major here which is pretty common nowadays at universities.”
During his time at Stevenson, Richardson has been the subject to many inappropriate questions. He has even had friends cross the line. “You would be surprised about some of the things people feel comfortable asking,” he said. Richardson not only has had verbal issues but physical problems as well. “I’ve definitely had bad situations with guys in the past when they get very drunk. I’ve had instances since I was a freshman where I had to literally fight people off with sexual advances.”
Unpleasant remarks have dated back to middle school for Richardson. “People made gay jokes, people made you know comments about that kind of stuff and is more just like you roll with it,” he said. “When I got to high school… I started having feelings knowing that I was different but didn’t know how to express it.”
These nasty comments have made their way to Reyes here in Baltimore County. “There was this one kid on campus (who) would hiss at us and would say “faggot” under his breath,” he said. Reyes, who is also a Resident Assistant, was called the same slur once more during his rounds on campus.
Again, Stevenson is not just a negative environment for these two young men. Richardson described the campus as eventful and revealed that the school helped make him who he was today. “I’ve had a lot of different experiences…I was more reserved in high school. Stevenson gave me an opportunity to grow,” he said.
For Reyes, one positive of being gay on campus is being more approachable to girls. “They feel like they can have a guy friend on campus without feeling threatened or feeling like I have a crush on them,” he said. His sexuality has also allowed him to connect with others. “Sexuality is a spectrum of course and I’ve helped a lot of people with their sexuality who were confused, questioning, or just have questions.”
In life, our ideas, beliefs, and even sexualities will differ. What should be similar is the way we all respect one another. Be safe and be kind.