Qwill, 20, Northfield, MN

I was kind of weird in high school. Maybe not weird but quirky, I suppose. In high school I felt like I was always on the outside of friend groups, trying to get in. I never really felt like I was part of a community where I was really wanted. Then I came to Carleton and I made these really good friends. Now I’m still quirky but everyone else is quirky also.

When I applied to Carleton I went by my old name. I haven’t changed my name legally or anything, but I’ve been going through the process of trying to change my name completely on campus. So when I came here I introduced myself as Qwill. It’s listed as a nickname but sometimes professors don’t print it on the roster, so I have to correct them in class when they’re doing attendance, which I don’t really like.

Qwill is actually the name of a character in a murder mystery book series. I read the books a lot in late middle school, and then I think I just picked it for some camp name or something and really liked it and then — yeah. Also, I picked it just because it’s a gender-neutral name and it’s not really a name where anyone has any connotations as to what gender it belongs to.

It makes me happy when people call me by Qwill. But it makes me really unhappy when people know what my name was before and call me that or put it out to everyone.

People I know who were close with me when I was going by my old name — I hesitate to ask them to switch. I just don’t totally want to let go of it, I think. I always liked this story that my parents didn’t have to argue on a name; they both just, like, wanted me to have my birth name. It means a lot that both my parents wanted me to be called this, and it’s still a part of me and I don’t want to give it up.

I feel like my gender is kind of a pendulum. Sometimes I feel more feminine, sometimes I feel more masculine, but I definitely swing somewhere between the genders. I don’t really have a pronoun that I prefer, so people just always use female pronouns. It’s kind of complicated if I say I want people to use all the pronouns.

I’m in choir, where choosing a gender is hard to avoid. We wear dresses and tuxes instead of choir robes and there’s just a lot of gender involved, which bothers me. But also I really like singing, so I kind of put up with it. Actually, we’re singing in costume for this concert. So originally I got this big flowy dress thing, and people are like, “Oh it’s theater, just deal with it.” And the costume I wanted to wear was pants, but the director is really old-school, and everyone thought he would say no. But then I asked him about it and he was really supportive. So I guess I’ll be wearing 16th-century leggings.

I also used to be on the competitive dance team and we had to wear dresses for that. I am really into swing dancing and I teach the swing dancing class. Swing dance is super-improvisational and you wear whatever you want. Usually most of the girls can both lead and follow. It’s a lot less gendered at Carleton than it is in the larger world.

As told to Diana Scholl
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Northfield, MN 2012
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