2 min

Too easy a target?

Gay student was terrified of living in an all-male residence

BUT THEN... John Norquay ended up liking the camaraderie of living with men only in Hamilton. Credit: Xtra files

John Norquay considers himself “one of the most out people on campus” at McMaster University.

And after four years there, he’s ready to head out into the world.

Norquay, 22, says that he came out to a few close friends near the end of high school. But he still didn’t know any other gay men or lesbians.

“I was really wanting to meet more gay people,” he says. “I had this idea – when I go to university, they’ll have some kind of group there. It’ll be great!”

But coming out on the Hamilton campus wasn’t as easy as he’d thought. Right before school started, Norquay received his orientation package – and found out he’d be living in an all-male residence.

“I was on the phone in 30 seconds,” he says. “Asking them can you please, please, please change this.

“I was honestly that scared.”

Along with the other anxieties of first year, Norquay faced living in what he assumed would be a hostile environment.

“It actually wasn’t bad at all,” he says now. “I wish that I hadn’t been that scared. There’s something about an all-male rez – the camaraderie, stupid nicknames. My roommate and I ended up moving to a co-ed residence, and I didn’t really like it that much.”

Still, overcoming his fears of residence showed Norquay he wasn’t ready to be as out as he thought. He ended up using first year as a “getting used to university” year.

What he did do was tell his parents.

“I thought, well if I can’t come out at school, I’ll come out to my parents,” Norquay says. So on a trip home to Mississauga, he sat them down and let them know. Both said they hadn’t had an inkling, but took the news fairly well.

So he headed back to second year at Mac with a newfound sense of self. He even joined the Gay, Lesbian And Bisexual Association of McMaster (GLBAM, founded in March 1988).

“I think that in second year I went to every single event,” he says.

Now, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual And Transgendered Centre of McMaster is an officially sanctioned student service – with an $8,000 yearly budget, a paid co-ordinator and an office.

Although he lost the position as co-ordinator to his ex boyfriend, Norquay has stayed involved, winning the Volunteer Of The Year Award. He also writes a weekly column for the school paper, and does talks for campus groups.

“In grade 12 if you’d said to me ‘In five years you’re going to be doing a talk on gay issues in front of an all male residence,’ I’d never have believed you,” Norquay laughs.

“I guess I found my niche.”

This month, Norquay will graduate with a BA in linguistics, and is leaving Hamilton to do his master’s, hopefully in Toronto.

And he says his dreams of what coming out and being involved in gay life would be like have been fulfilled.