On a cold, snowy night last January, I found myself waiting on the porch of a rowhouse on Spruce Street. It was the Friday of the weekend with that huge blizzard, and snow was already piling up inches deep on the street. There were no other people out, or cars, and the streetlights cast a deep, warm yellow that the snow reflected onto everything. I felt like I was the only person on Earth. I had just come from a themed mixer and shivered in my senior year prom dress (it was emoji themed, and I was the red dress dancing girl). I wandered to the far edge of the porch, away from the door. As I gazed out over the street, the large door creaked open, and I turned around to see her right behind me. She gave me a big hug and said, “Hey! I’m glad you’re here. Come inside.”
* * *
My girlfriend and I just celebrated our six–month anniversary. She also goes here, although she's a senior and I'm a sophomore. In my experience at Penn, same–sex female couples are not common. I know and am friends with many queer men, but I only know a handful of queer women. I only know about one other same–sex female couple here. The way my girlfriend and I met and started hanging out was completely random and unlikely, but I'm so grateful for the way things turned out—not just because we managed to strike up a functional same–sex relationship, but because we managed to strike up a functional relationship at all. That, in itself, is pretty uncommon at Penn. Street recently printed an Overheard that said, “If you want a boyfriend that badly, then you should just transfer.” There’s some truth to that.
When I came to Penn a year ago, I was happy to just participate in the hookup culture that Penn is known for. I figured that I was a freshman and shouldn't expect anything serious, but that I should keep an open mind. Then second semester rolled around, and my relationship came with it. I’d never really dated a guy before, let alone a girl. I had no friends here who had ever been with another girl, and I had to discover how to go about our relationship as I went along.
But even though I had no other bi, gay or queer women to relate to my situation, I don’t think the rarity of our circumstances has impacted our relationship. Yeah, there don't seem to be a lot of openly gay women at Penn, but I wouldn't define that as a major difference or issue in my relationship. There are much more real, tangible differences between me and my girlfriend: she's an upperclassman, I'm not; she's an athlete, I'm not; I'm in a sorority, she's not. These factors affect our relationship much more than the lack of a visible group of queer women on Penn's campus.
At a surface level, we’re the same as any couple on campus. We struggle to find time together when we both have busy schedules. We cook dinner, we do work together, we go to parties together. And we fight about the same things as any other couple. I never really defined our relationship in the scope of “gay”. To me, a relationship has always been about connecting with one person. The fact that that person was a girl didn’t matter to me.
Of course, I'm immensely grateful for the fact that my group of friends is progressive and accepting, and that my sorority never batted an eye. I’ve never experienced any harassment, except occasionally if I'm out with my girlfriend at a party and we're kind of drunk, I'll hear a comment from some idiot boy behind me about how "hot" we are. Please, just let me enjoy my DFMO in peace. But if this is the worst I'll experience about being in a same–sex relationship, then I definitely count myself as lucky.
Every day I think about how fortunate I am to have met someone who helps me be the best version of myself. Every relationship is a give and take, and in my experience, sexual orientation hasn't affected that. I'm just happy that I found someone to be with who makes me happy. She isn’t just my girlfriend—she’s my best friend, too. And for other girls at Penn who are looking for queer women, don’t be discouraged, because they’re definitely out there. If it happened for me, it can happen for you, too.