Back in August when I was writing the first drafts for my Tuck application, I was answering the question: “What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome and how did you overcome it?” Or at least the question was something like that. For my initial essay, I wrote about how the hardest thing for me was coming out to my mother. I thought it was a great first draft for that essay. Then my consultant responded with very good constructive criticism, essentially saying, “What separates your story from all of the other coming out stories? Was this really the toughest thing you’ve had to overcome?” I don’t think she meant it as, “Yeah right, this is not the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome.” It was more along the lines of, “This is a common story!”
I admit that I became immediately defensive. I thought, “Of course it was the hardest thing! Who cares if it’s a common story? It’s MY story and it was hard!!!” Yeah, that’s how I talk to myself in my head. Fast forward to today. I’ve learned a lot in the short weeks since that essay review discussion. I now know that the hardest thing for me was not coming out to my Mom. I have honed in on what the hardest part of coming out was and that’s what I am focusing on in my essay. (Sorry, too much competition out there right now for me to “give” my story or ideas away).
I had a friend ask me the other day, “Why are you doing so much research into the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) climate at these schools? Everyone at the schools is an adult and will treat you just fine.” For me, it’s not necessarily about being treated fine, but I take the LGBT culture so seriously because it’s a part of my everyday life in New York. Of course, it doesn’t have to be and trust me I would be comfortable at a school where I was the only LGBT student. Let me take a step back, though, and share some insight into my reality here everyday in NYC.
1. So… my roommate is gay.
2. I work for a luxury retailer heavily invested in fashion so by default I work with maybe 80% women–and of the 20% men, 80% of us are gay. So if the company employed 100 people, 80 would be women, 16 would be gay men, and four would be straight men. There are a lot of conversations about peep toe shoes and shopping and not so much about Monday night football. 😉
3. About 95% of my male friends here in the city are gay, so when we go out where do you think we go?
4. Then, I come home and I’m around my roommate again.
I can and have gone a week without talking to a straight male–not by choice, but in retrospect, that’s just the way it’s happened. I’m not saying whether it’s good or bad, but it’s just the way it is. Am I looking forward to changing that environment? Most definitely! I’ve done NYC and I may or may not be back here for the rest of my life post-MBA, so I’m definitely looking forward to leaving for a bit.
With that being said, the reason I look into the LGBT culture at each school is simple. While I can bond with anyone, it’s just nice to have some people you can turn to, talk to, or just give a glance to and they understand what you’re thinking and have been through what you’ve been through. Don’t get me wrong: I haven’t been through anything that I know a lot of other people have. I don’t think it’s tough to explain, but I think people understand what I’m trying to say.
Think of it this way. Let’s say you played football your whole life from Pop Warner up until College. Then, you go to business school. When you watch the Super Bowl, you just want at least one other person in the room who also played football and knows why you may be yelling at the TV when the referee blows the whistle! Sure, there will be some people in the room who played soccer or basketball their whole lives and love sports, too, but they may not get IT. Of course you’ll still have a great time but it may have been better with that other football player in the room. That’s the best analogy I can make guys.
I think it may also be a lot of my prior thinking that B-school was a bunch of type A I-bankers, and having that stereotype becoming a factor in determining where to go to school. Had I not had that mentality when I started researching schools, I would have never gotten to the place I am in now where I know that THAT is not the case. B-school has a myriad of people, most of whom don’t even care about one’s sexuality. I got that sense when I visited Yale, Dartmouth, and NYU.
Also, at any school I attend I plan to have an active role in the LGBT club on campus. If there isn’t one, then it’s not so much that I couldn’t start one, because I could, but not having one would give me a sense of the types of students who are at the school. I don’t think (I could be proven wrong) that a school without a LGBT club would be the right school for me. I have also heard stories about people not feeling comfortable in B-school being out. I can’t fathom being in an environment like that. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t go around carrying a purse and dressing in drag, although I have friends who do and let me say that they are looking forward to Halloween! It’s funny when real women are asking gay men in drag “Oh my God, who did your make-up? It’s better than mine!” Only to have the guy give her a nasty look like, “How dare you even ask such a thing? I did it myself!”
I’m not asking for there to be 40 LGBT club members all wearing rainbow flags on their backpacks, because A) that’s overwhelming, B) it’s not sincere. Still, an LGBT presence on campus says a lot about the school and the students. If anyone thinks differently, I’d be glad to hear your opinion, but you won’t change mine. Not on this!
This report is adapted from Richard Battle-Baxter’s blog posts at “Ellipsing My Way…To Business School.”
Previous posts by Richard at Poets&Quants: