Although going to college now presents many challenges to me, I’ll say that there are absolutely many advantages over going at an age when I traditionally would have gone. If I had entered college straight out of high school, it would have been in the fall of 1988 and most likely would have been a state college in North Carolina. Both of these bring up several issues on a personal level and some relating to my chosen field of study.
As I said in my introductory post, I am majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Web Design. The field of computers and programming has advanced so much in the last twenty-four years that it’s difficult to know where to even being with the changes. There were certainly programming classes back then and even personal computers, but they were pretty different than what’s offered now. My minor absolutely did not exist yet. The Internet did exist in 1988, but Tim Berners-Lee had yet to write his proposal for HTTP and the first ‘webpage’ wouldn’t be around for another three years or so. The concept that businesses would one day not only actually pay people to code these things, but really wouldn’t even be taken seriously as a business if they didn’t have one, was as incomprehensible as a business routinely advertising by skywriting.
Speaking of things that (mostly) didn’t exist in 1988 …
After my first actual meeting with my UW student advisor, I was wondering around the student service area – taking care of financial arrangements, making sure I was properly registered, that sort of thing. There was a sign pointing to the different student service departments available and one of the listings was for the Student LGBTQ resource center. I happen to be bisexual, and I’m very comfortable with this fact, but I didn’t come out to more than a very few friends until I was 21 … which would have been about my third year of college if I had gone in 1988. While I know there were some LGBTQ organizations in the NC area in the late 1980’s, mostly they were at private schools (Duke University being a noted example) and were certainly not officially endorsed by the school! Some histories of such organizations talk about how progress was when the school administration moved from a policy of unquestioningly expelling a student for being gay to “only” strongly suggesting counsellings and other cohesiveness to “correcting” their behavior.
OK, make no mistake, I’m going to school to further my education and to get my degree. Assuming I’m not being actively discriminated against, I don’t think I actually need such a center anymore than I need one for any of the many other subcategories which could be used to describe me. Unfortunately my orientation is one such category which has been used to discriminate against people … including myself. Having such an organization – and one recognized and actively condoned by the school – means a great deal to me. Also, although I didn’t exactly enjoy the discrimination I’ve encountered in my life, I’m glad that I can talk to my younger fellow students and tell them about how things really have changed for the better! (This doesn’t mean we should rest comfortably now, but that whole It Gets Better thing isn’t bullshit. It may take time, but it really does get better!)
I may have waited a long time to get started, but I really do think this was a better starting place; “Now” is better than then.