Letter to the Editor: A Wesleyan Gay Romance

“Freshman year I was rooming in the basement floor and Dan Waters was on the ground floor of our Foss Hill dormitory. We met, became close friends, grew inseparable, fell deeply in love and have been together ever since. We got married in 2004 when it was first legally allowed in Massachusetts and thus far have shared 46 wonderful years together. Both of us are retired now and are living on Martha’s Vineyard where I was born and where we have spent most of our post-Wesleyan years. A special hello goes out to all our friends and fellow dorm-mates during freshman year at Foss 5 (which I see from recent photos is no longer there).”

This was my submission for the 1977 class notes that appeared in the Winter Issue 2020-2021 of this magazine. After being edited for space (perhaps a little too heavily), it lost the tenor of what I was trying to impart. I don’t know if there are many stories out there about long-lasting gay relationships that got their start at Wesleyan, so I thought it best to at least set this one straight (or gay, in our case). Finding that perfect person with whom you know you want to spend the rest of your life is challenging under the best of circumstances. Being gay during those years, this became a lot more difficult.

Anyone growing up gay and reaching adolescence in the 1970s knew that, because of the not-so-subtle hatred and bigotry towards them, it was prudent to keep that fact hidden as best they could. This created a distinct problem for young gays looking to find romance. Even with the best “gaydar,” it was nearly impossible to tell who else in high school or college was batting for the same team. Today you could just go up to someone and more or less ask if they were into guys without risking getting punched in the face. But back then, if you were totally crushing on some guy, your only option was to try a lot of very subtle, almost imperceptible flirting and horsing around at first. Then very slowly you began taking some risks and getting a little less subtle. Less subtle, if you can even imagine it today, would be saying something along the lines of “I really like hanging out with you a lot” and hope for a “Me too.” Luckily it turned out that both Dan and I had serious crushes on each other pretty early on and were brave enough to quickly risk a lot less subtle flirting.

We soon became a pretty committed couple and were roommates from sophomore year on. If we had been straight, we could have blatantly made out on the rolling lawn of Foss Hill on any sunny day and no one would have blinked an eye. As it was, we couldn’t risk being even slightly affectionate to each other in public, let alone think of holding hands or going so far as to actually kiss. Over those years we did receive our fair share of gay slurs slung at us from a few less tolerant students who suspected we were more than just pals. This, however, was more than balanced by our many good friends who treated us no differently and with respect even after they had easily figured out the true nature of the relationship between Dan and myself. Our best wishes go out to all the LGBTQ students currently at Wesleyan with our hopes that things may be a bit easier for them now. We both look back on our college years fondly, and Wesleyan will always have a special place in our hearts as being the place that brought us together.

Harvey (Hal) Garneau ’77
West Tisbury, MA