By Nathan Acosta, ’09
This is a coming out story of sorts, but I’m a little offended to refer to my story as only that. Coming out is a first major step. I have always known I am gay and came out to all friends and family at sixteen. This is what happened two years later:
When I arrived at Elon I had one mission: find my people. I knew so much was riding on this. As one of only two out guys in a high school graduating class of more than 800, I was desperate to find my community. The fantasy and fulfillment of self-discovery exploration that college brings was something I had looked forward to for years. You see, I’ve always been an early bloomer. I was taunted, teased, ridiculed, and bullied for being who I was for so long and needed to find others to relate to. I’m sure we have all felt at some point in our lives “am I the only one that feels this way?” That was so me at eighteen years old.
Within the first few weeks of arriving on campus, I explored the options. I attended the first few SPECTRUM meetings. After all, I had been the president of my high school’s Gay Straight Alliance. SPECTRUM was the next step, right? Actually, it wasn’t. I realized quickly I didn’t have enough in common with the people there. I didn’t identify with them on any level other than we were all living an “alternative lifestyle,” or passionate about the issues and campus agendas typically related to politically conscious homos. In the days of 2005, SPECTRUM presented to me a colorful buffet of everything that “gay” was except for one critical element: me. There were lesbian softball players, closeted lesbian staff and professors, religious studies majors, obsessive music theatre queens, acapella singers, people with two moms or two dads, and New England hippies on the list serv.
Fortunately for me and SPECTRUM, this story isn’t about my diva takeover, reinvention of, and totalitarian rule of the student organization. No, gaining my sense of community didn’t happen that professionally. Of course it would happen randomly, at night, after an experimental night of under age drinking. For the sake of time and removing further embarrassing details, just know that the glam squad magically appeared!
Also known as the “Pink Mafia,” the glam squad was the ultimate team of strong black women cleverly disguised as gay boys. We were from all over and from various backgrounds: some were from the rural ethers of the south, some were big city boys, some came from wealthy families, and some were at Elon on scholarships. We were united by our confidence. Essentially, the glam squad ruled Elon the way the Spice Girls ruled the world in the summer of 1997. We were icons of style and fashion, adored jewels of comedy and humor, vigilant leaders of thought, and known for our outlandish, over-the-top, fabulous parties. We held positions of leadership and prestige throughout every resume-building activity Elon had to offer. By every definition, we were successful.
My indoctrination into the glam squad was proof it was possible to live life out of the closet and still be successful. My mother had told me for years that being both was an intangible dream. It was explained to me that I had nothing to contribute to the world. Being gay was a burden to her and a shame on the whole family; Since I wasn’t going to have a family of my own one day, I was selfish for “making this decision;” My focus until I die should laser-in on keeping a low profile and trying not to get AIDS or addicted to drugs. Whatever happened, there wasn’t going to be a nice ending. I would never be happy and no one would come to my funeral. Then I would go to hell!
The members of the glam squad were committed to proving my mother wrong. We each had an elaborate personal story full of unusual challenges. We were gay and Catholic, gay and from uneducated, blue-collar families, gay and black. Some of us were gay and sons of conservative, wealthy families with millions at stake depending on who knew they were a fag. I guess we led double lives, but we were ahead of our time. We didn’t let these total extremes get the best of us. I don’t think we realized it then.
Times with the glam squad were the best. Our gang was a very similar set up to the cast of Queer As Folk. Everyone was friends with everyone, but had an arch-nemesis rival with someone else. We had quiet movie nights at home, crazy house parties, and ventured far away from campus for a splash of the grander gay lifestyle at Raleigh’s Legends and Greensboro’s ill-fated Skybar. We giggled and squealed over stories about crushes and new loves just like sorority girls do. Being in the glam squad meant, for the first time, there was always someone else who got you.
Like a glamorous new product straight out of Hollywood, the glam squad came apart too soon. After the fall semester of my freshman year, we were less and less connected due to internships in other states, study-abroad experiences, graduations, and other commitments. I started dating someone who didn’t go to Elon and life moved on. In the following years as an upperclassman, I tried a few times to find a community like the glam squad again, but it didn’t exist on campus. Other gay guys I knew were either in the closet with no intentions on cracking the door or too absorbed in other identities to be best friends with each other. I’m not sure why the glam squad didn’t have follow-up generations. The greater Elon community didn’t become more conservative or aggressive in anti-gay intolerance. In fact I was only called fag twice in my four years – that’s versus a dozen times daily in high school. I think the glam squad is a certain special product in our social nature. It’s like a bursting of cicadas only once every 17 years. Whatever the case, I’m just glad I was a part of it then and can’t wait to stumble upon my next tribe of fabulous sexual deviants.