The Gay/Straight Roomate Debate

A recent Ask Amy column featured a question on gay vs. straight college roommates and the writer was miffed that she couldn't use that criteria to screen the folks who will share space with her freshman son. She claims that her family is not discriminating...

They've had roommates who were of different races, different cultures and different religions, and have gotten along fine. Bob would prefer a straight roommate. ...

The university (a Jesuit school) has no policy for gay/straight roommates, other than that they don't permit discrimination.

In doing an informal poll of my older children and their friends, I discovered that all but one had a gay roommate and didn't stay roommates for long. Is it discrimination when a straight man doesn't want to room with a gay man?

Here's Amy's take. She's right. But why these folks continue to write to nationally syndicated columnists instead of coming straight to us is a mystery. We'll take a shot at it, anyway.

STRAIGHT GUY RESPONDS: Why isn't there any method to screen out roommates who are obviously momma's boys like "Bob"? My freshman roommate was both gay and mom-dependent, and the latter was by far the bigger issue. We survived, and were mostly cordial and polite throughout.

It was a rough year for many reasons, and I've never been an advocate for the stranger-as-forced-roommate scenario. Just cut those dorms into more, smaller, single rooms and everyone will be fine. Sure, a few loner-antisocial-phobics will shut themselves in, but that's a small price to pay for greater harmony all around. Out of the 20 roommate pairings on my freshman hall, only 2 really clicked, and one of those pairs knew each other from their hometown. That's not great odds.

Still, if you're stuck in the system, deal with it. And, no, you can't segregate the dorms by orientation. Give me a break.

Lady, if you want your son to meet nice girls, there is no better social lubricant than a gay friend. As I've mentioned, they often have advanced their social skills far beyond the capabilities of the average dude of 18 years. Or, you can trust the fraternity system to teach your son how to deal with respectable young women and hope for the best. Those aren't the only options, of course. But please read Wolfe's "I Am Charlotte Simmons" as a primer.

Hey, no guarantees, though. Anyone, gay or straight, can be a friend... or a jerk... or have a mom who is a control freak. Let's limit our phone calls to the administration from now on, but keep the care packages coming.

Oh, a gay guy's work is never done.

Mom, I hear how proud you are that you've allowed your kids to have such great exposure to the world. Before you pick up your diversity trophy at the next PTA meeting, try reflecting on what you've learned, or not learned, about diversity. On a practical level and for the sake of expediency on the upcoming rooming issue, let's cram having a gay roommate into the "different cultures" pigeon hole Bob's already flourished in, and just assume the kids will get along fine.

Bob, I hope you are cringing and hiding your face in public. Strap on some nuts and keep your mom out of your business. What's the problem with a gay roommate? Oh, that's right, he's going to stare at your junk and hit on you, right? Can't you straight guys come up with something more original than every gay guy in a tight space is going to jump your junk? Bob, right now, this is your problem and yours alone. Keep mom and student affairs out of it.

Just for fun, here's my freshman roommate story. I was assigned to room with a nice-enough, straight, popular, soccer/basketball playing BMOC guy. We were friendly, but not really friends. I wasn't sexually experienced enough then to understand that he was chipping away at acquiring some same-sex sexual experience, and, in tiny cautious ways, he was hitting on me all year. I was so innocent. Should I have realized that asking me to help him work on his abs by holding his thighs around my waist while he did sit ups was sketchy at best? About two weeks before the end of our first year, he did more than hint about what he was looking for. Not one of the more memorable sexual experiences of my youth, nor did we decide to room together second year. No huge loss. Amusingly, given the lack of action my first year of college, BMOC soccer boy was likely to have been the "gayer" of us.


Straight in Upstate said...

One of my favorite Doonesbury cartoons, which I clipped out from years ago, was about forced integration of dorms. Two roomies, black and white, went to see the president and complained about the denial of their freedom of association. "If I weren't forced to, i would never associate with Bill - he's a total jerk! And not a black jerk - his jerkiness transcends race!" Roomie: "As does Ed's complete lack of personal hygiene!" President: "Actually, this is progress. Good day, boys."

And yes, Ask Amy just needs to forward this stuff straight to you from now on.

Kathryn said...

You guys are missing the most important part: The mother's "informal poll" of her other children. Can't you just picture it? Family's sitting around the table....starving. Mom's holding the basket of Pillsbury crescent rolls...all warm and fresh from the oven...and she casually waves the basket back & forth as she remarks "None of YOU have ever had to DEAL with a GAY roommate...have you?"
She sounds insufferable. I hope his college is in different state. He could seriously use the distance.

Anonymous said...

i had some straight friends hit on me in college; i wouldn't act on it since i didn't admit i was gay yet. i think a straight guy rooming with a gay guy in college would think about experimenting. is this good or bad?

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