Ahhh, here I sit here in New York City, the center of the world. City life is such a blast. Semester break has finally arrived and I am free from the rigors of graduate school. Great things are on track for next semester, including a new executive cabinet for the Lambda Society, the Marshall University glbt student union. This change will be quite cool and I look forward to a smooth transition (you go Raymie!).
Making up for lost time, I have been frequenting the gay establishments here in the NYC area. When I left New York City to attend Ashland University (OH), I was not "out" to anybody, it was terrible. I have come so far since then. This past Friday, I took my straight sister to a gay club near Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ), and she thought it was fabulous. I lucked out by having a supportive family.
Since I don't know many people in the NYC area, I have tended to be bored during my stay. To relieve this factor, I have "clubbed" every weekend, making my Christmas break life rather interesting. New experiences have been on the menu from the second I returned to "real" city life. You see, Huntington (WV) is a real city, however it lacks some of the large city experiences. To put to mildly, I have had my eyes opened.
In Huntington, we have three gay bars, two of which are highly attended, making gay life acceptable. However, there is still a small town mentality which pervades the city and the campus, making it hard for an outsider to integrate. "Natives" are the ones who control the scene, and since I am "outsider," I get left behind at times.
Although my time at Marshall has been great, it has also been a time of challenges and sadness. At moments, I have questioned my attractiveness and other attributes that are looked at by future partners. I have a core groups of friends who are very supportive, but in the mainstream, life is not as welcoming.
I can tell you that at Marshall, I am definitely out of my element. Now don't get me wrong, I love Huntington, but dating life and friendships are not the same that I was used to in NYC and Cleveland. I have a hard time reading the intentions of people from the rural areas. As I say, "hick" scrambles my gaydar, making it difficult to accurately assess the situation at hand.
People in New York have been fun and welcoming. Upon my arrival, I instantly noticed a new culture, one with which I can associate. I am a big city boy deep down! In my first night at the club near Rutgers, I was "hit on" three times in fifty minutes. This was stunning because I don't think that I was hit on that much during my first year in West Virginia. It felt good to be looked at like a piece of meat (for once). Maybe I misread the actions of the gay West Virginia crowd? I have no clue! Life is just, well, interesting. After I get my Doctorate, maybe I need to give thought to becoming a staff member at New York University. I'll certainly keep that option open for further investigation.
What I have learned from my "culture shock" is that when I changed geographical regions, the people with which I associate were be dramatically different, making my life more challenging. If I was raised in a rural environment, coming to New York City would probably render the same experience, only in reverse. My time in West Virginia has been an excellent learning experience which has increased my interpersonal communication skills with people of an Appalachian background (something which will, most likely, come into future use). Throughout the past two years, I have been patient, yet frustrated; however my life is become more stable, allowing me to negotiate with people and, for the first time, garner a positive and rewarding result. Patience was the key element to adapting to the new queer subculture.
Peace and Pride,