Gunther Schryer

January 1998

"On Campus Living Experiences"

Life on a university campus can be quite puzzling. When you add to the mix a large amount of rural queer youth, the puzzle becomes even more complex. I find this to be true of my time spent at Marshall University.

When I arrived on campus, I found that a large gay population existed -- a fact that shocked the heck out of me. However, even with a large queer population, I found that most student carried a lot of baggage -- the closet.

In the West Virginia and Kentucky region, the general motto of the area is to "leave me the hell alone." A degree of anti-government activity exists which makes queer life more tolerable. West Virginians try to keep the government out of their personal business.

Since Marshall University reflects the society which encompasses it, these anti-government feelings leak onto campus. Upon arrival at Marshall during the fall of 1996, I was mildly concerned about what I might find.

Generally speaking, I have found that West Virginians are very accommodating and tolerant. Even though they might not like "fags," they respect my right to peace and privacy. In the residence hall system here, I have never had one problem with anti-gay harassment. Everybody knows that I am a big queer boy but nobody seems to care. It is great!

When people think of queer life, they don't generally think of West Virginia being a good place to live. I disagree. In Huntington, where I live, we have a small, but vibrant, queer community. In a city of 150,000, you will find that we support three gay bars and several other establishment that cater to queer folk. Life in Huntington is not heaven, but it is enjoyable and fun.

The days of stereotyping West Virginia residents as being "moon shiners" and "hicks" are coming to an end. When looking at colleges, don't discount those which are in smaller cities or those in states which frequently are stereotyped. You might be quite impressed at what you find. We are a rather strange bunch -- but we know how to live. Huntington, and other West Virginia and Kentucky smaller cities, have many services for gay people while leaving the big city problems behind. It's a great combination.

Peace and Pride,

Gunther Schryer

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