Eau Queer: a Retrospective

Four years at UW-Eau Claire have centered on queerness and expanded my horizons.

I+didn%E2%80%99t+last+two+months+in+Eau+Claire+before+admitting+to+myself+and+two+of+my+closest+new+friends+that+I+was+bisexual.

I didn’t last two months in Eau Claire before admitting to myself and two of my closest new friends that I was bisexual.

When I told my high school classmates that I was planning to attend UW-Eau Claire, many of them laughed. 

“That school’s full of gay people,” one said. “Are you sure you want to go there?” 

Another joked that I might get “turned.” 

Their jabs were white noise to me; I was eager to escape, whatever the cost.

LGBTQIA+ issues had hardly crossed my mind at that point. 

I’d maintained a seemingly cisgender, heterosexual appearance throughout high school, too preoccupied to even consider what other ways there were to be. 

I’d seen some rumblings of queerness on social media, but it seemed so far away from my Lutheran high school. 

I figured that UW-Eau Claire would bring me to reckon with queer people, but I felt sure that my convictions about myself would remain steadfast.

I didn’t last two months in Eau Claire before admitting to myself and two of my closest new friends that I was bisexual. 

Both of them were openly bi, and it took their help for me to admit what I’d privately known about myself since I was fourteen. 

In the years that have followed, I’ve also come to know myself as asexual and non-binary. In the fall of 2021, I came out publicly for the first time.

None of this would have been possible without UW-Eau Claire. 

Between locations like the Bridge, counseling services, SHS (which have all been instrumental in my queer journey) and the simple feature of community, this campus is almost its own character in my narrative. 

I have come out as bisexual in Davies, as asexual (ace) in counseling, as non-binary in SHS and as all three during class in Hibbard Humanities Hall.

I’ve had the joy of meeting queer people all across campus, both in class and in chance meetings. 

Sometimes, it’s little more than an understanding glance across the classroom as we share pronouns at the start of a new semester, but that has a value and joy all its own.

There’s more to this story, though, than just my experience. 

The centering of queer narratives in many of my classes was powerful for me; I hadn’t been presented so bluntly with queerness before. 

Often, I was amazed to see just how expansive the community was, whether I was reading poetry by Richard Siken or studying queer and feminist philosophy. 

My degree (in English and Philosophy) is about far more than my academic achievement. It’s provided me with links to the wider world and to people all over it who are like me. 

When I arrived here, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. My goals are still murky, but I’m sure that writing queer stories is at the center, all in the hope of being like the authors whom I’ve seen myself in while studying here.

I’m graduating this May, and I’m ready. 

The season for full-time studying has ended, and that is neither good nor bad. UW-Eau Claire will always be my college, but it’s more than that because of what I have discovered here. 

UW-Eau Claire is the place where I met myself for the first time, and where I met the community in which I intend to spend my life.

In the queering of my education and life, I have learned an immeasurable amount. I hope that many more students can share in that wonderful experience.

Buchan can be reached at [email protected]