Brown: The gay roommate

Columnist Jake Brown implores new roommates to be honest with and accepting of each other. 

Jake Brown

When I first came to Iowa State, I was nervous to be openly gay. I had attended a private Catholic high school in Sioux City, Iowa. I grew up surrounded by racial slurs, sexist jokes and the constant “That’s gay” that arose from my classmates’ mouths. 

I had hoped college would be different, but I couldn’t be sure. I arrived on campus to a roommate that was white, Catholic and straight, not very different from the people I grew up with. 

My first instinct was to hide. 

I put on my “straight” voice, full of deep tones and “bros,” all to show that I fit in and had nothing to be ashamed of. As I got to know him, however, I realized he was not the same type of person I originally thought he was. He was intelligent, respectful and understanding. We quickly became friends, and I came out to my roommate in October of that year. He understood, and it turns out I had nothing to worry about. We have had multiple conversations about the topic and we are still close friends to this day. 

My roommate situation is not uncommon, but nor is it the norm. Everyone is different and everyone will respond to situations like mine differently. For those of you who are reading this article who are not openly LGBTQIA+, it can be difficult knowing if you’ll be accepted by your roommate or the community you live in. It is crucial that you find a supportive environment where you can thrive in. 

In a large community like Iowa State, however, it’s easy to find others who will respect and value your openness. Iowa State has several LGBTQIA+ student organizations that have been the foundation for involvement, activism, pride and leadership on campus. These organizations can help you find a strong community where you can be yourself. 

For those reading this who are not LGBTQIA+, maintaining an open mind about others and their own experiences will be extremely beneficial. You may have never met anyone who identifies as something other than heterosexual and that might be an uncomfortable situation for you. However, it is something that is unavoidable. 

A 2016 survey of more than 33,000 students found that 10 percent identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, asexual, pansexual or questioning. More than half of Generation Z does not identify as strictly heterosexual. 

You may have a roommate that is not heterosexual and that is completely normal. While it may be uncomfortable, treating your roommate with respect and having that conversation with them may be an informative and illuminating experience for everyone involved. 

Living with a stranger is difficult, and living with one that thinks and loves differently than you may be even harder. As long as respectful, honest and receptive conversations are had, you can look forward to a great year with a new friend.