Becoming a college student has been a massive adjustment over the past few months, and it has been the most intellectually and socially packed time of my life so far. I have often found myself somehow both lonely and running low on social battery from interacting with so many people every day. That said, meeting people who did not know me when I was an (even more) awkward teenager has been fantastic. I am relieved that y’all didn’t know me in my skinny jeans era (or my cargo shorts era, thank goodness).
I have been able to meet folks from all over the world and learn about new friends’ favorite foods, bridges and books. I have learned about sports that I didn’t even know existed (paddle tennis anyone?). I am pleasantly surprised by the familiarity I have started to feel here with my lovely friends, both in classes and in the Brunswick community. Bowdoin does not feel like home quite yet, but it sure feels close.
I have also gotten to be very involved with Bowdoin’s queer and trans community, which has been very rewarding. As a SWAG student leader, I have helped organize events and support ongoing mental health and social projects, including Gender Matters, a group by and for trans and non-binary students on campus. I helped to run my high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, but this feels different.
In high school, I spent a lot of my free time trying to combat anti-trans hate in South Carolina’s legislature and public schools, but that work was mostly very lonely. I hung out with trans folks when we were traveling to the state house together to testify and host press conferences, but I rarely saw them in a purely social context.
This work was spectacularly draining. Even with a supportive family, I could not help but internalize some of the hateful rhetoric I heard incessantly from politicians, fellow South Carolinians and strangers on the Internet. It was pretty scary (and now relatively embarrassing) to have my 15-year-old face on the Internet, as well as very personal information about my physical transition and ongoing depression publicly displayed. I was posted on Libs of Tiktok, a hateful anti-LGBTQ+ social media page that has incited countless death threats against various members of the queer community. I eventually considered quitting political advocacy all together, but that is not in my nature and would have felt more harmful to me in the long term.
I am still working on trying to find something in the middle. Gender Matters, and SWAG in general, provides a chance for me to organize and fight for my community without fear or overwhelming stress. Getting to create and participate in a joyful and community-oriented space here has been so fulfilling, and though I am not as loud about it as I used to be, I am proud to be a trans person in a political context that doesn’t make it easy for us to thrive. I resolved when I left home that I would not let my fear of being “found out” dictate my decisions, and I am privileged to be able to make that decision. Lots of trans folks can’t come out for a variety of reasons, but since I can, I resolve to be visible for other folks who can’t be yet.
I have quickly learned that Bowdoin still has its fair share of work to do in truly supporting and affirming its marginalized students. I assumed that, compared to my public school in the South, Bowdoin would be a utopia. But, unfortunately, that is not the case. Our football coach has liked a plethora of anti-trans tweets on his public X account. Many community resources are still conveyed via word of mouth behind closed doors rather than a thorough database of information publicly shared with students.
Even seemingly helpful gestures, like asking for pronouns in classrooms, club meetings and athletic practices, can put students still figuring out their identities in a difficult position, forcing them to either lie, stay silent and risk judgment or come out to a whole group of people at once.
All that being said, I really do love it here so far, not because of the institution and its slow clunky moves towards progress, but because of the fascinating, passionate and delightful people I have gotten to know through classes, clubs like Gender Matters and general shenanigans around campus. Y’all are the reason I end my days here with hope in my heart.
Eli Bundy is a member of the Class of 2027.