Diary of a Fresher: When I came out as straight – at a gay and lesbian gathering

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The Independent Online

On her birthday, my mum got a card from a gay family friend that contained a photo of a camp, white-teeth-plucked-eyebrows type with the caption "Nick wasn't gay. He just helped out when they were busy". It's meant to be ironic, of course, but my life has always been stranger than fiction. As if to counterbalance my recent drinking society swap, this week I've found myself "helping out" the gays of my college by making up the numbers at the gay equivalent of a drink soc swap.

Being avowedly hetero, I'm not sure how I ended up doing this. I'm friends with the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Rep for my college, and because all my college's "actual" gays were otherwise engaged that evening, he got desperate. For my part, I'm intrigued to see what it's like eating at another college, and meeting congenial, interesting people is surely enough reason to attend a social gathering.

For the most part, sexual preferences don't have any role in university life. We are, after all, a liberal, enlightened bunch with no time for bigotry. When one of the candidates in our student union elections made the ever-so-slightly inflammatory remark that, if elected, he wanted to "help" the university's homosexuals to "change", the uproar was so great that he withdrew from the race.

Swaps are still slightly dodgy territory though. It's arguable that swaps, gay or otherwise, are basically opportunities to meet potential sexual partners, so by going on a swap without any intention of so much as flirting, I'm defeating the point of the exercise. As we walk to the college where the swap is taking place, we "honorary gays" (there's three of us) are instructed to claim bisexuality if asked. I think I'd just rather not go there.

When we arrive, the seating plan seems to have been done with little regard to having the girls, decidedly in a minority, sit near people they might be interested in. From a feminist-inclined book I read recently for my course, I know the term for such an approach is "androcentric". It's always nice when my academic and social lives collide, and it's similarly gratifying to see that the gays of my university can be misogynistic too.

The meal is really, really fun. It's so refined – no drinking games, no macho posturing, just good, interesting conversation. It's almost like being at a dinner party back home. About half way through, it occurs to me that about this time last swap, some drunken friend of mine was slapping my face repeatedly with some naan bread. Actually, I believe said friend was the LGBT Rep to whom I owe my presence here tonight, but that's not the point. It's the atmosphere more than the individual people that makes this swap different.

It's odd being self-consciously heterosexual. I think I'm more secure than most, but as someone who does a lot of theatre and not a lot of rugby, it's inevitable that I occasionally wonder if some people make false assumptions about me. Here, in a strange reversal, I'm anxious about my guilty heterosexual secret being "discovered". When I do eventually come out as straight, the guy to my right looks slightly disappointed. I'm not entirely sure what to make of the girl opposite's raised eyebrow.