I lied on my college applications.
No, there were no made up anecdotes or faked photos of me on sports teams. In fact, there weren’t many made up details on my college applications at all, so technically it wasn’t even really lying.
Unlike the families caught in the college scandals earlier this year, I put in the work. I wrote my own essays. I took my SAT and did, compared to most of my friends, relatively trash. I double, triple, quadruple checked for typos and grammar errors.
My parents went over every last detail before saying “Yeah, it looks fine. Submit it” and watching me submit my applications, one by one, on the 21st of November, my 18th birthday (I spent my birthday doing my college apps. You didn’t?)
The thing is, no details were falsified, but many were left out. So many that, if you looked over my college applications now, you’d think I was a completely different person.
In my college applications I seem less well-rounded, I have less emotional baggage, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m rather boring. That person, however, is who my parents know me as: someone who’s seemingly average in all things academia (that much is probably true) and who does nothing much else outside of school and journalism. I waste time and stare at my computer too much. I’m always on my phone.
My uber-conservative parents know little about me. It’s not really the way I like it, but it’s the way it has to be.
They know my favorite color and they know that it changes depending on my mood. They know I’m a student journalist and that I’m passionate in most things that don’t involve math. They know the name they gave me. They know everything I tell them about. Which is, at the end of the day, not very much.
I hide a lot from them. It’s not really an angsty-teenage-rebellion kind of thing and more of a this-is-my-truth-to-tell kind of thing.
They don’t know that I’m queer — more specifically that I identify as genderqueer. That’s a large part of my identity, surely it makes sense for them to know about smaller details, right?
No. Not really. They don’t know about my favorite artist — Janelle Monae, by the way — because even my favorite musical artist leads to the implication that I’m not the person they think I am.
And I have to be the person they think I am.
And at 18 with as much passion for LGBTQ+ advocacy as I have, I also don’t have much of a personality outside of my queerness. Sure, I’m an activist, an advocate, and a journalist. But because I’m queer, my work in those areas is about empowerment of queer people like me.
Everything I do is an extension of myself and myself is queer, confused, tired, angry, and on most days, just a little bit scared.
Now, look, I don’t have a degree in psychology, nor have I taken AP Psychology, but I know that if your gut tells you that you aren’t safe, you listen to it. I’ve listened to that gut feeling my entire life.
So I listened to it when I was applying for college, too.
I think I always knew that I’d have to lie to my parents about it. I struggled with whether or not I should hide that truth — my truth — from admissions officers, too. Bonus points for authenticity, maybe, but what if my admissions officers just all happened to be transphobic? There’s not really a Buzzfeed quiz for “Is My Admissions Officer Transphobic?” and it’s not a detail you find out very easily. (Even if I had looked through their LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram profiles, I’m pretty sure that’s not something I’d see explicitly.)
Plus, if I wrote about being queer, I’d have to write two separate sets of essays, and most days my laziness overrides my need to be unashamedly queer. Also, is dealing with circumstance the same as overcoming adversity? I didn’t throw myself into the line of fire, I just happened to be in it. Even if I had just submitted without them knowing, I’d have to write a new set for them to read when they inevitably forced me to show them my essays.
So I went with the gut feeling; I chose comfort and safety over truth and I filled out my college applications to reflect someone I’m not. I told myself comfort was better than miserable, homeless, or dead.
In retrospect, maybe a large part of it all was me overthinking. On the other hand, “overthinking and overreacting” is what’s kept me safe all these years.
I’ve spent the past six months wondering if I’m alone in this, but I know that I’m not; it wasn’t just applying to college, it was having to keep a secret. I know there are countless queer students like me that can’t truthfully talk about their dreams and their passions, because they’re keeping their own secret. College application season, for many, will just be an extension of what they have to go through every single day.
Applying to college is stressful. Believe me, I know. I understand how infuriating essay prompts can be when they’re all mostly the same but also slightly different.
I get it, I really do, but if you got to write those essays truthfully, know that that is a privilege, too.