Emily Rutherford Archives

cloacamaxima.jpgPrinceton history is something of a hobby of mine, and reading between the lines of Princeton history to pick out the gay bits is even more of a hobby. It's a really entertaining game, partly because the homoeroticism that pervaded pre-coeducational Princeton is just so blatant: they don't call it the Princeton rub for nothing. Princeton is in the mold of plenty of other elite universities catering primarily to wealthy young men in the 19th and early 20th centuries: homoerotic as all hell. Like Harvard and Yale, we didn't just copy Oxford and Cambridge's architecture! (A tour of between-the-lines homoeroticism at Princeton is necessarily going to leave out women, I'm afraid--coeducation coincides with gay liberation in the historical record, such that by the time queer women arrived on-campus, forms of understanding queer identity had changed somewhat from the protohomosexual attachments of yesteryear.)

I was excited as the next Princeton queer when a group of students from the Princeton High School Gay-Straight Alliance invaded the LGBT Center the other week. It's no small thing that we live in a world where teenagers can feel safe and comfortable entering an LGBT Center of any kind, loudly exclaim about the DVDs in its lending library, and carry on as teenagers will as if the LGBT Center is any old after-school hangout spot. My heart went out to those kids: it hasn't been so long since I was a high-schooler who knew I was gay, but still would have thought twice before setting foot in a room covered in that many rainbows. Even though it's easier than ever for teenagers to be out, you've still got to admire the courage of those who are, and coo over how sweet they are and how much they remind you of yourself when you were little, except for the fact that you were a misfit and they're not.

I'm clearly not the only person who feels this way about LGBT teenagers. April and May are senior prom season, and the queer and even the mainstream media have been abuzz about the latest martyrs to the cause: the high-school seniors who want to bring same-gender dates to prom. Constance McMillen, the lesbian teenager from Mississippi who made national headlines when her high school forbade her to attend her prom with her girlfriend or in a tuxedo, became the darling not just of Queerty and Bilerico, but of network television as well. The entire world, it seemed, was shocked by her fellow teenagers' meanness, when they invited her to a "fake" prom while attending the "real" one in a different location. And McMillen isn't the only one: a gay senior from Georgia named Derrick Martin, on the other hand, made the news for successfully bringing a male date—the hitch this time being that his parents kicked him out.

My friends at Princeton's feminist blog Equal Writes alerted me to some big news coming out of the White House yesterday afternoon: a presidential memorandum which orders hospitals receiving Medicare/Medicaid funding (that's basically all hospitals) to allow patients to designate visitors other than immediate family members: 

There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean -- a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them. Yet every day, all across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides -- whether in a sudden medical emergency or a prolonged hospital stay. Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives -- unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.