Northfield Mount Hermon School

Chun-Wen Ko

February 29, 2020

Being a gay teenager is hard. I came out three years ago, yet I still don’t feel completely comfortable about my identity. I feel awkward whenever someone asks me if I’m gay, and I have family members who definitely cannot know about my sexuality. Being a gay person of color makes things even more complicated, in ways I don’t think I can fully explore in this essay. Of course, being at boarding school has also made my experience a very unique one.

One main reason why being gay at boarding school is hard is because it can feel very isolating at times. Although I strongly believe that Western Massachusetts has to be one of the queerest areas in America, it’s still very rural. The LGBT+ community at my school is out and proud, but we’re pretty small. Although I’ve never felt unsafe, I can feel very isolated sometimes. This is especially amplified because I’m a guy—I find that at this age, girls are much more open about their sexuality than guys. Sometimes, I have no idea how to speak up when someone in my dorm makes an insensitive comment, especially because I don’t know who’s going to back me up. Another effect of having a small queer community is that dating is nearly impossible. I won’t dwell on this, as I’m sure my friends have already heard me complain about this far too much in the past. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll have to wait until college to date, which I’m okay with. It can be difficult sometimes, however, when you see yourself surrounded by straight couples: it’s like you’re missing out. All of these reasons make being LGBT+ in boarding school a difficult experience at times.

Luckily, my school is pretty good at discussing LGBT+ issues. I generally feel pretty comfortable talking with faculty members about LGBT+ issues, and although they may not be able to personally relate to such issues, they always try to educate themselves on these issues and be understanding. We’ve had numerous workshops, summits, and discussions about LGBT+ issues and other social issues, and I’ve always felt comfortable at these discussions. In addition to the school faculty, a lot of students here are also very supportive. Some of my best friends are straight and have been very understanding. Again, even though they may not be able to relate to my problems, they never fail to make me feel supported and loved. Thus, even though being a gay teenager is hard, there are so many great people around me and the amount of support they’ve shown me is amazing.

Overall, adolescence is a difficult time for everyone. For me, this is especially complicated by my race and sexuality. Even though some people may think of these social identifiers as hindrances, I have learned to love my identity more. It can often be difficult, but it is a necessary step in my journey of self-love, and will hopefully continue to help me figure out my place in the world as I continue to grow.


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