My name is Avery Collard, I’m a Team CHAARG CLC + was the founding Ambassador of Northeastern CHAARG, + a proud queer woman. I’ve known I was bisexual since I was 12 years old – I even have a page from my journal from 2012 where I detailed my feelings for a close female friend of mine. Growing up, being queer was as natural to me as walking or breathing.
I want to preface this article with this: I am aware that my experience as a queer woman does not begin to parallel other’s experiences – I grew up in Oakland, a place where diversity + love are celebrated, no matter what. Even before gay marriage was legalized, I saw queer couples + families everywhere I went. I also have the privilege of being white + straight passing, two aspects of my life that provide me protection from some of the discrimination so many people in the queer community face. I have never talked about what you’re about to read for this reason – I have big imposter syndrome when it comes to being an outwardly, prideful, queer woman because I have not had the struggle + the discrimination that my queer family has faced, + I feel that I am less valid because I have not had to push against odds – I just exist. I write this with that sentiment in mind, however I feel that it is important to share my story.
My friends will tell you they admire how secure I am in my bisexuality, + how much they admire my outwardness + confidence with my sexuality. However, the truth is – this was a normal part of my life until I moved to the east coast. I never “came out”, I just was Bisexual. I remember coming home + telling my Mom I went on a date with a girl for the first time, + without missing a beat she asked me how it went, what we did, etc. – as if it was any other date. Being bisexual was never a big deal. Only when I moved to Boston did I start to notice that queer was “different”, + that people would look at me differently because of my sexuality. Moving to Boston was a culture shock, but different in the way that most people would assume. Boston, when compared to my hometown of Oakland [right next to San Francisco] is very conservative in their views + their expression.
When I moved to Boston, there were three things that made it painfully obvious that queerness was treated as different.
#1] The first was when dating here, being bisexual was something I learned had to disclose, because for the first time in my life, that was a dealbreaker for some people. I was met with bi-phobic comments indicating that I was more likely to cheat + therefore unappealing, asking about threesomes, saying that they would hookup with a bi girl but not date her. I had to start vetting my dates + ensuring they weren’t homophobic or fetishizing my queerness for their own needs. I stopped going on dates with women for the first year + a half I was in Boston, because I was having dealing with being queer in a place where I felt like I was forced to come out + be judged again, + again, ++ again.
#2] When making friends at Northeastern freshman, I quickly discovered that I was the first openly queer person most of my friends had met. It’s hard to put into words how I felt that first year – every time I made a friend, I felt like my queerness was something that could either make or break the friendship. There were some friendships, particularly with males, where I felt extremely tokenized + alienated. My male friends also took my interest in women as an excuse to “locker room talk” around me in the thought that I could join in + bond with them. My freshman year I was constantly sitting in rooms of straight men, listening to them rate women’s Instagram pictures, plot hookups, share strategies for getting girls, + then would have to laugh + smile when asked my opinion or be met with a “come on, it’s not that serious”. I was the token gay friend that you could talk about girls with, + sometimes it felt like nothing more.
#3] My luck with female friends was no different. I joined a sorority my freshman year in the hopes of finding a group of women where I could feel supported + find my people. However, this was where I experienced my first real, obvious act of discrimination. When I joined a sorority, I didn’t fully understand how Bostoners + Northeastern students treated queerness. Northeastern + Boston have the façade of a liberal, accepting place. However, I quickly found that the “acceptance” was surface level, + that people looked at you differently after finding out you were queer. In my pledge class, I had two girls stop talking to me, sitting near me, + even looking at me after they found out I was queer. When I disclosed this to an older sister, she told me that they “probably didn’t think badly of me” + that it was “really in my head”. This incident helped me understand that there were people here who didn’t fit into the accepting façade – + that at the age of 18 I was going to have to navigate bi-phobia, alone, for the first real time in my life.
This was around the time I found CHAARG. CHAARG appeared to me as an inclusive, supportive place where women were empowered to be the best versions of themselves [spoiler alert: that’s completely what it is!]. I took a leap of faith founding CHAARG at Northeastern, doing it as much for myself as my community. I needed a place in Boston where I could be comfortably + unapologetically myself – which meant bisexual + proud. Through CHAARG, I was able to find myself + feel secure in my personality + self – which meant reclaiming my bisexuality in a place where it had previously been stifled. CHAARG provided me with a community, platform, + a family where I could be authentically myself without fear of discrimination or judgment.
The people in my chapter + around the country have never looked at or treated me differently after finding out about my sexuality. I have found it very similar to being queer in Oakland – I just exist. CHAARG was a refreshing breath of fresh air after a year in the cloaked homophobia of Boston. It is because of CHAARG that my life is the way it is today – without this community I would never have developed the confidence in myself to pursue my passions + live without fear of judgement. I will forever be grateful + in debt to this community for the happiness they have brought to my life – thank you for allowing me to be my true self <3.[To any CHAARG member [or person!] struggling with their sexuality – even though you may not know me, my DMs are always open! Please reach out to me @avery.inchaarg if you ever want to talk or need support – I am here for all of you!]