As the saying goes, “Home is where the heart is.” But for many LGBTQ people, figuring out where that is can be more than a little bit complicated. As Harry Potter said when asked how he felt about returning to Privet Drive, “Hogwarts is my home.”
I’m always a fan of reading queer allegory into just about anything, so let’s go for it: Harry spent his life oppressed by the culture of his home and abused by his family. Having escaped this environment, he found his way to a place where he could explore his identity (as a wizard, but since I’m pretty convinced that LGBTQ people are actually magic, we can go with it) and where he had friends with whom he could share his experiences. In short, he found somewhere safe (except for the giant three-headed dog, the evil wizard living in the back of his teacher’s head, the entire Forbidden Forest and the giant snake in the basement). Then, at the end of the year, he found himself on the train back to a place where he would face abuse and discrimination once again.
Just about every queer person I know has experienced some version of this since coming to college: We discover a community of people who are willing to accept us for who we are, and we experiment with our identities in ways that we were never allowed to before. Then, inevitably, winter break or summer comes around, and we find ourselves back on the Hogwarts Express (or at Logan), bound for a place where we feel unsafe or unable to exist as ourselves again.
I hail from a conservative, rural part of eastern Maine. I’m a queer trans woman. That’s really not the best mix. I’m not out to anyone in my town, as much as I wish I could be. My winter break is going to be four weeks of being misgendered and deadnamed, of dressing butch (entirely contrary to what has been described as my “crop top and maxi skirt lesbian” aesthetic) and focusing all of my energy on not slipping up, on not carrying anything with my name on it or using she-series pronouns to describe myself.
At the same time, my fondest memories from my childhood are set in my town, featuring the people from whom I will have to spend a month hiding myself. At the same time as I dread being cheerily deadnamed by the owner of the only coffee shop in town, I can’t wait to see my dogs and to smell the ocean again. For me, as for many queer people, concepts of “home,” “safety,” “self” and “family” are tied up in a knot so unfathomably complex that I can’t see where to start untying it. Through all of it, however, one thing remains true: If home is where the heart is, my home is with my friends, my chosen family and the community that has welcomed me upon arrival. Tufts is my home.