Celebrating ‘Gayversity’

April 8, 2009 12:00 am0 comments
Munier Salem

Here’s my take on stereotypes: If you were to take the Taylor expansion of human behavior, stereotypes would be the zeroeth order term. They neither fail to take into account any variation within the group they label nor do they describe anything dynamic. But you have to admit, they’re often close to the mark.
The fact is, stereotypes are fun, and like amoral social scientists and OCD biologists, I occasionally enjoy a good-ol’ fashion exercise in taxonomy. So I want to talk about the stereotypes of the Cornell University gay scene. Every college or university has one, and within Cornell, each school has one, but are all gay scenes created equal? I think not.
I grew up down the road from Vassar College, so I had high expectations coming to Cornell. When the other nearest centers of higher education include Bard College and SUNY New Paltz, you start to gain the impression that everyone of a certain academic caliber is absurdly liberal, and has (at least on occasion) batted for the other team.
And so flash forward to senior year of high school, when I was filled with the joy and rapture of gaining acceptance to Cornell (well, actually, that day was mostly remembered as the day I was rejected from Columbia … but we won’t go there). I had never been to “that part of the state” before, but rumors of the majestic liberalness of Ithaca, New York, had reached my ears long before I even knew what the SAT stood for (nothing). Surely Cornell was the most liberal college in existence with a thriving gay scene. I imagined a sea of enlightened individuals — girls with ultra short cropped hair in flowing brown skirts and boys in white tee-shirts and skinny jeans — hitting bongs beneath the leaves of towering oak trees, planning a socioeconomic revolution, and bragging about how many different genders and sub-genders they’ve hooked up with.
Needless to say I was a little shocked by what I found: popped collars, Keystone and fraternities? Really? They actually exist? I bet no one joins them though. Wait, really? Thirty percent of undergrads? So much conservatism at one University! For instance, did you know every undergraduate college has its own special brand of business major? No, seriously — A&S: economics with a concentration in finance; ENG: operations research and information engineering*; CALS: applied and economic management; HumEc: policy analysis and management; Hotel: hotel management; ILR: industrial and labor relations (not the ones who actually care about labor, the ones who just wanted in at an ivy); and AAP … um … well, once again the architects are impossible to make fun of.
But above all, the thing that shocked me most was the gay scene. So many closet cases, and anyone out of the closet was either in some sort of monogamous relationship or literally all over the place. We had Project Runway Wednesdays and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but otherwise it was every man for himself. In an attempt at assimilation, we’d flock to frat parties with the rest of our freshman floor, only to stand in the corner, watching a raging, sweaty mass of heteronormativy gyrating to Shakira.
Eventually I decided to fight back. “No I would not like a keystone,” I’d announce, “I want one of those fruity drinks with the roofies in them.” The brothers did not approve.
My freshman floor was where I was first introduced to common slang like, “That’s so gay,” and the perennial catch-phrase “faggot.” Faggots, I might add, allude to the Salem witch trials, so it’s sort of insulting on multiple fronts. OK, I actually don’t have an ounce of protestant in me (my European is of the Ellis Island variety), but still, come on people!
Anyway, I’m being a bit unfair here. In order for Cornell to be considered a true Ivy League University, the country at large needs to be well represented. Even it if does mean accepting bigoted Midwesterners. Oh, snap! Did that stereotype hurt? My bad …
Eventually, I realized there was so much more to Cornell than just the frat scene. It’s hard for freshman to realize that when they’re all shoved up on north campus, unable to mingle with upperclassmen who don’t quarter card outside RPCC, but it’s true. Over the past couple years I’ve accrued my own set of “gay” stereotypes. With a bit of exaggeration and a little imagination, they can break down by college, and in the spirit of Ann Coulter that’s exactly how I’d like to share them with you:
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: The best closet cases upstate New York has to offer. Who’s ready for two tickets to the gun show? What’s that? You want to run your own organic grocery when you retire? Me too! PROS: The farmer tan. CONS: They’re actually all wimpy communications majors.
The College of Architecture, Art and Planning: AAP gays dress way hotter than you do, and they know it. They’ve been out since the third grade and so the whole outspoken pride thing is just a touch too juvenile for these guys. PROS: They can help you out shopping when the new Urban Outfitters opens. CONS: They smell like a human cigarette.
The College of Arts and Sciences: Why do we even pretend to include “Sciences”? They’re all English and music majors anyways. They specialize in “queer theories” and are interested in some British grad student who fulfills their “intellectual needs.” PROS: Everyone needs a ghost writer for that occasional Jane Austen essay or token Sun gay column. CONS: You have to pretend to like experimental poetry when you’re around them.
The College of Engineering: Who doesn’t like a little geek-love now and then? And let’s admit it — no one else is willing to do Lord of the Rings role-play. PROS: If New York State legalizes gay marriage, you’ve just found a sugar daddy capable of employment during the recession. CONS: We actually smell and taste like Ramen, but if you’re into that, it could work.
The School of Hotel Administration: I am going to run the most *~fabulous~* hotel when I grow up. O.M.G. Their will be fresh lilies EVERYWHERE! PROS: Good cooks. CONS: They’ll soon be stuck in a Dubai debtors prison for that seven-star hotel that collapsed financially along with the petro-dictatorship.
The College of Human Ecology: Speaking of Project Runway, head over to “Martha Van” and meet next season’s cast! Notice they never call it “Renssellaer,” in case you make the hideous mistake of confusing them with RPI. PROS: They know fashion. CONS: They majored in Human Development and have decided its worth living a lie in an attempt at progeny.
The School of Industrial and Labor Relations: The hottest champions of social justice since Marcus Garvey. Though I heard they only go for construction workers, policemen and other unionized workers coterminous with the Village People. PROS: Well read people are hot. CONS: He complains about Walmart more than his ex, and that’s just weird.
Of course these stereotypes are only the beginning. There are the Greek gays, the Risleyite gays, pre-med gays, Gaysians and of course I.C. gays … such gayversity in one University!

*Doesn’t “information engineering” sound like something totalitarian dictators do? It used to be “Industrial Engineering” but apparently that major didn’t sound impressive enough to Goldman-Sachs career fair reps.