Finding Comfort Outside the ‘Binary’

by Alex Chin on October 28, 2021

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was suddenly placed in a situation where my academic and family life collided. With virtual school, I could no longer physically separate the two parts of my life. On campus, I had carved out a space in which I could exist as a nonbinary student, tutor, and friend. At home, I retained all but my gender identity.

For one-and-a-half years, I had to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I would introduce myself and my pronouns to my classmates in a hushed tone, hoping that my family could not hear me. In several instances, I was unable to correct my professors and peers when they misgendered me. This sacred space that I was used to authentically occupying was now at risk of discovery. This was (and still is) an unfortunately common occurrence for numerous closeted students, particularly those who were/are quarantined with their families.  

Alex and friends during friendsgiving

Friendsgiving in Heinz lounge during my first year at Arcadia (fall 2018).

Now that Arcadia’s campus has reopened, I’ve heartily welcomed the change in scenery.  Interacting with familiar faces in person has reminded me of the ever-present acceptance that comes with my community. The unwavering support that I received over the course of quarantine is what kept my precarious balancing act afloat. I’m thankful for the people I’ve met over the years, ranging from those I keep in constant contact with to those I’ve met in passing.  

These pocket communities...are what make Arcadia a refuge for some people. Students can find other people to confide in, all while learning the importance of found family.

- Alex Chin

In my first year, it was by simple chance that I met the main members of my friend group.  We all met each other through similar interests and acquaintances, slowly morphing into the collective that stands to this day.  Though we would occasionally attend campus events together, we mainly created and met at our own group activities. We bonded over our shared facets of identity, though when we didn’t have similar experiences, we remained open and accepting.  We soon became each other’s avid supporters in times of need, and this was especially true during the pandemic. Though we were in various parts of the country, we managed to meet on Discord for regular check-ins and social hours. It is also through this very app that I learned of another group, which had virtually come together during the course of the pandemic in hopes of establishing their own community.   

There are also more established ways to join a community. For instance, PRIDE Club is a student organization whose main objectives are to discuss activism, while providing an inclusive community for those seeking it. These pocket communities, though they begin in different contexts and modes, are what make Arcadia a refuge for some people.  Students can find other people to confide in besides their blood relatives, all while learning the importance of found family.

Alex and friends during Halloween in 2019

Halloween in Oak Summit’s C lounge during my second year (fall 2019).

These very bonds and connections can be made in unexpected places, and for me, one such place was at Arcadia. While I did expect to meet new friends in college, I did not expect to discover a new family so quickly among the student body, LGBTQ+ and allies alike.  To this day, I am still rendered awestruck at the acceptance I continue to receive, whether it be on campus or virtual. I no longer need to settle nor resign myself to an unsupportive environment, and I’m grateful to occupy truly comforting spaces once more.