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Brendan McKeon, a senior political science major who describes himself as “catty,” gossips, loves shopping, single handedly decorated the common room in his former dorm room and uses the word “fabulous” more often than Coco Chanel. But his ostentatious nature is not something that McKeon always put out there for others to see. He didn’t come out as being openly gay until his freshman year of college; a trend for three men in the Quinnipiac community.
“It was May Weekend freshman year and I was with my best friend since kindergarten,” McKeon said. “She said something like ‘why are you being so gay?’ and I was drunk so I kind of flipped out. I stormed out of the room and we had a big emotional, moving conversation in the middle of the Dana stairwell. It was that life altering conversation. That was telling the first person in my life that mattered.” As McKeon grew more comfortable telling people that he was gay, it became less of a secret. “If people didn’t know I was gay, it was the worst kept secret on campus,” he exclaimed. In high school, McKeon dated girls with the mentality of “this will make me straight.” He claimed to be in denial until coming to college.
Alex Contreras, a senior marketing major who claims to be “obsessed with Sushi and going on road trips,” had a similar experience. Just after his high school graduation, Contreras told one of his best friends that he was gay.
“I decided that if my close friends couldn’t be OK with it, they were never friends to begin with,” Contreras said. After his first few weeks at Quinnipiac, Contreras faced the inevitable difficulty of finding a way to tell his new college friends. “Coming out to my close circle at home was one thing,” he said. Within those first few weeks, Contreras said he knew who his close friends were and began slowly opening up to them for the same reasons he was comfortable telling his friends from home. “It’s not that I wanted to tell the world I was gay, it just felt nice to have some people that I could share that part of my life with,” Contreras said. “Until I came out I felt like there was always a part of my life which I kept a secret and made me seem numb or upset. My friends noticed I became much happier and confident as an individual once I came out.”
Andrew Videira, a senior international business/marketing major, took a different approach to coming out once at college. He let people realize that he was gay when they were ready to realize it and discuss it. Videira, who is involved in numerous organizations on campus including Dance Company, Residential Life, undergraduate admissions and is a former member of the Student Government Association, insists on people getting to know him as Drew, not as Drew the gay person.
“I wanted people to meet me as Drew and that’s part of why I have the friends I have now and why I’ve had the experience I’ve had,” Videira said. “I wanted to make sure that people knew me for who I was and not just my sexuality. So when it came out, everyone was like whatever, it’s Drew. It wasn’t anything new. I never hid it and if people asked me I’d be completely truthful with it.”
The QU community and the gay man
Despite beliefs that the Quinnipiac campus is an intolerant one or even a conservative one, McKeon, Contreras and Videira agreeably claimed that the community has been surprisingly accepting of their lifestyle choices.
“I honestly have never felt discriminated against,” Videira said confidently. “Everyone has always been open to me, but I do know some people who haven’t had the same experience, especially at a school with a freshman dorm setup consisting of four males in one room and 40 males sharing one bathroom.”
On what appears to be an accepting campus, McKeon explained a trend he sees at Quinnipiac: “Here there are a lot of people still in the closet afraid to be themselves,” McKeon said. “Then there are the ones who are in the closet and not doing a good job keeping themselves there. Everyone knows, even though they think it’s a big secret. I think it’s hysterical.”
The stereotypes of a gay man and of a fraternity man do not typically have much in common. At Quinnipiac University, that is hardly the case. Videira, a brother in Sigma Phi Epsilon and the Vice President of Recruitment for the Inter-Fraternity Council, said that joining the fraternity was a great choice he made at the university. “The brothers are the most accepting males I’ve ever met in my entire life,” he said. “You think fraternity, you don’t think gays, you think macho, all the stereotypical fraternity stuff. You don’t put that in with the word gay. It’s just such an accepting community.”
Similarly, Contreras, a brother in Tau Kappa Epsilon and a deejay on the student-run radio station, WQAQ, is a proud member of both organizations. He is also involved in the Latino Cultural Society and is an Orientation Leader.
McKeon, the former president of the Gay Lesbian and Straight Supporters (G.L.A.S.S.) on campus, joined the organization to get to know other people with a common insight. “It’s not just gay issues that are on the agenda, it’s a lot of human rights things that we’re all going to be confronted with, whether it’s woman’s rights or African American rights or Latino rights,” McKeon explained.
In college, where ignorance is not tolerated and lifestyle choices are more accepted than in high school, the difficulties with being openly gay came not when telling their roommates or friends at school, but when the issue arose at home.
On coming out, Contreras said “I just wish it were this easy to tell my family.” His parents have no idea that their son is gay.
McKeon said his mother was surprised when he told her that he was gay. “I thought it was hysterical because honestly, how can you look at me and not know?,” McKeon said with a hearty laugh. “I told her what shoes to wear that day!”
But since coming out to his mother, McKeon said that she seems to be in denial about his interest in men. “She’ll like the fact that I’m gay on a certain day if she’s going to pick out a new piece of furniture or if she needs help with a necklace or something,” McKeon said. “But when it comes to me actually bringing guys home to introduce them, she has this wonderful way of always being on the phone and refusing to get off. But when my brother’s girlfriend walks in, she’s off the phone in two seconds.”
McKeon claims to hear the phrase “that’s so gay” at least 15-20 times every day, but he never takes offense to it. He says that people will say those things around him and then realize what they’ve said. “It makes the person feel a little dumber for saying it around me,” McKeon said.
Videira agreed, saying that when he hears someone say, “That’s so gay,” he responds with “That’s so straight,” and both parties get a good laugh out of each other.
When it comes to relationships, all three humorously but truthfully agreed on one thing: all straight people assume that because you’re gay, you’ll love any other gay man.
“My friends are always trying to set me up with somebody,” McKeon said. “They’re like I know this guy and he’s great, he’s totally your type. People don’t necessarily know what my type is, but because they meet another nice guy who’s gay, they want to set me up with him right away.”
Videira has had similar experiences: “When you’re in the room with another gay person, everyone just assumes you’re going to hit it off because there’s not that many of you. …That doesn’t happen with straight people.”
Videira, McKeon and Contreras each say they have roughly the same number of male friends as female friends. They all agree that same-sex relationships are tricky and none of them frequent gay bars in lieu of Side Street Grille, Aunt Chilada’s or Dickerman’s. On each of their facebook.com profiles, it proudly says that they are “Interested In: Men.” They’re attracted to eyes, a great smile and overall, a man with a personality. And on tolerance, Videira sums it up with: “It takes a really confident straight person to sit there, and not just stand there and take it, but to say, ‘You two should hold hands, you’re in love, you deserve this.'”