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I Cried in Class Today (And It Was Great)

February 20, 2024

Julia Xu '27

I cried in class today, as the title of this post suggests. No, it wasn’t over anything bad.

(The last time I remember crying over a class must’ve been high school calculus. Actually, one of the reasons I chose Oberlin was because we have no mandatory math or curriculum classes! You can learn more about Oberlin’s academic policies and graduation requirements here, or whatever, but let’s go back to the important stuff: me.)

So yes, I cried.

I’m currently reading Born This Way by Joanna Wuest (it has nothing to do with the Lady Gaga song) for my Queer Comparative Politics Class. (If you’re interested, you can search for it in the 2023-2024 Course Catalog by the course name or as POLT 217.) To super-condense the book: it's essentially a timeline of how the biologically-driven conceptions about queerness or “homosexuality” from the 50s have become ingrained in modern American politics and law, and how these origins have transformed into today’s panic over “indoctrination” and pride flags in classrooms and the like. It’s super interesting stuff! (To clarify, that wasn't sarcasm.)

Near the end of the class, we discussed ways that we could counter modern iterations of those old 50s-70s arguments, especially now that we’ve read about what has and hasn’t historically worked. I was mostly listening during this part. As someone who comes from a small and relatively apolitical town, I don’t have much experience “engaging” in debates with people who disagree with me on such a personal level. (For context, I identify as a lesbian.) That’s not necessarily true for the rest of my classmates, though.

We’ve got all sorts of people and experiences in the class. One person is from Texas and frequently attends protests, whereas the closest thing to a protest in my town would be the Memorial Day Parade, which I marched in as a Girl Scout in elementary school. Someone else attended Catholic school for 6 years, and the closest I can relate to that experience is that I attended Catholic kindergarten (because it was the only full-day kindergarten at the time). A couple of people in my class are longtime athletes, and hey, I took some swimming lessons at my local senior center as a kid! 

All this to say, I’ve been working alongside people I have nothing in common with and probably never would have talked to had we not been brought together by the fact that we’re all interested in queer politics. Having conversations like these and hearing people’s widely varying experiences with family, friends, old classmates, and politics always reminds me of how grateful I am to be at such a diverse school, in such diverse classrooms, learning about things I’ve never heard of.

There’s a level of trust that has to exist before people feel comfortable sharing the private, vulnerable parts of their lives, and seeing as this was our fifth time ever meeting, I also felt honored to be included in an atmosphere that was so affirming and receptive to hearing opinions that differed and sometimes contradicted. Not everyone gets to be in a space like that, and not everyone gets the chance to. So I consider myself lucky.

And to that, I cried!

(Well, I left my seat under the guise of going to the bathroom and cried a little in the hallway, so technically the title of this post is misleading I guess, but… whatever.)

Now I write to you from a booth in Azzie’s (or Azzy’s, both short for Azariah’s Café) with an empty cup to my left (that used to be a chai latte) and an empty container to my right (that used to be full of clementines). I’ve just finished the introduction to The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir (you don’t want to know how long it’s taken me to learn how to spell “Beauvoir”) for my Feminist Theory class tomorrow, and now I’m thinking about what kind of tacos I want for dinner, and if I’m going to get them with churros or chips and salsa. “Judas” by Lady Gaga is playing in my headphones and I feel great.

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