Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

Authentic Eagles: Harry Hoy on Performing Masculinity

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our true selves. Embracing our individuality can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being one’s authentic self at BC. We hope that readers are inspired to have conversations and reflections of their own, working toward being more authentic individuals.

Harry Hoy, MCAS '19

My first semester of freshman year I wanted to transfer. Tabs for other university admission sites were constantly open in my browser. I was not adjusting well to life on a floor with dozens of other 18-year-old young men, and their mode of masculine connection was not a mold I wanted to fit into. I could have done it—I had done it for most of my life, or at least tried to.

Playing little league, varsity soccer, and working construction sites with my uncles all required a specific kind of masculine socialization that I never felt comfortable with, but I had learned how to adjust enough to avoid being teased or bullied.

Especially from when I was younger, I have moments seared into my memory of other guys goading me on with questions like “How do you look at your nails?” which, depending on how you oriented your hand towards your face, confirmed how girly you were. Sometimes they just blatantly mocked my voice, which I guess did not fall into the acceptable masculine range (even today I still become fixated with my inflection when I listen to recordings of my speech). Occasionally I was called a faggot (how perceptive!). When I hear that word in public, though rarely addressed to me, it raises the hair on the back of my neck.

All of these small moments taught me that in order to fit in with the guys, I had to alter my self presentation, at least enough to avoid outright derision. Because of this, I had just a handful of close male friends in high school, the rest female. I was fortunate that I had a close-knit group of friends for most of my childhood, with whom I rarely felt like I was constantly performing masculinity, as I understood it at that time.

So when I came to Boston College and was dropped into a residence hall with several dozen young men, I felt a similar panic creep in that I hadn’t felt for quite a while. I didn’t want to make my way through college performing a masculinity that I didn’t identify with.

For the first few weeks I tagged along with several groups of guys from my floor to football games, meals, and whatever nightlife was available to freshman boys. While some of them were genuinely nice guys (shoutout to my freshman roommate Jack Colavecchio), I frankly did not have much in common with them. I had trouble engaging and sometimes I probably came off as cold or disinterested.

Soon, I stopped towing along because it was making me miserable to constantly sit at the fringes of conversation. Often the conversations made me uncomfortable—and maybe most importantly, I never felt that I could openly share my queer experiences.

During my self imposed exile from Loyola 3, I was fortunate to have one of my best friends down the B-line, who attended Boston University. I frequently spent full weekends at her apartment running with her crowd, with whom I felt I could be my authentic self.

As this social circle continued to grow, I felt it stunting my ability to make friends at BC, as I was often away during the weekend. On the rare occurrence of an invitation from a BC student, I would politely decline, hedging my bets that I would feel safer and have more fun down the B-line.

My lack of friends at BC meant many meals eaten alone and solo studying. In my head, I was okay with this because I was thriving socially elsewhere. I had less of a desire to transfer because I was enjoying my classes, and the people that I wanted to see were just a quick ride away.

Simultaneous with these developments, I was also playing cello in the chamber music department at BC. I was in a piano trio, and the pianist, a first year like me, invited me to hang out in the Fenwick Basement. This was a pivotal moment for me, as this basement was where I connected with people who would eventually become my best friends at BC. I had finally found a group in which I was comfortable being myself.

However, I was still the only openly queer individual in our group of friends. I still felt like I was missing a queer space, where being queer was unremarkable. Being the only one, I was occasionally tokenized, and there was no one who shared a parallel experience at BC. This was at times frustrating, but not something I dwelled upon.

Fast forward to second semester of junior year: I had a loving group of friends, and was part of leadership for several clubs on campus. I was also coming back from a semester abroad in Rabat, Morocco and had enrolled in Arabic to keep up with the language gains I had made abroad. It was in my 8 a.m. practicum that I would find the queer family that I was missing.

Three other guys in the class, I would shortly find out, were also queer. We all gelled and soon after solidified our friendship as our generation knows best: by making a group chat.

This little space that I had found was the first time that I felt completely comfortable being myself without performing any kind of masculinity around other men. And more subtly, I finally found a space where being queer was a default, something small but totally revolutionary for me.

I am forever grateful for these people (Rayan! Hugh! Zack!) that I met in my 8 a.m. Arabic practicum. It certainly made the early rise worth it. And I am also forever thankful for the other queer folk that I befriended at BC.

Being queer should be, in many ways, unremarkable, but this is unfortunately not the case at BC (and I am privileged to have had very few negative altercations because of this fact). I hope, and have faith, that queer students at BC who haven’t already found their space will find it in due time, so that they, too, can be their authentic selves.

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