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    Bye, Bye, Bi-Coastal, and Hello, Chicago!

    By Tabitha Parent–

    San Francisco? Check. Boston? Check. If you’ve followed along this summer, you’ll know that I’m now adding yet another international, cosmopolitan city to the list of places I’ve lived in this year. Hello, Chicago!

    Of course, I must be truthful. I’m not technically Chicago. I’m actually in Evanston, Illinois. And last year, I lived in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, which, as you can imagine, doesn’t have quite the same effect as saying I lived in Boston. So, for all intents and purposes, I’m in Chicago.

    So, here I am, just a train ride away (a train that actually comes on time, mind you; I look pointedly at Boston’s T line when I say this) from The Windy City.

    When we imagine Chicago, I don’t think we tend to associate it with the Midwest. At least for me, personally, when I think about the Midwest, I think of corn, cows, and football. And yet, there is no denying that Chicago is about as Midwest of a city as they come. Once again, this coast-craving California gal has found herself in the most unlikely of positions—landlocked in the middle of America.

    I will be the first to admit that I am one of the largest proponents of the coastal superiority that our country subscribes to. How could you not believe that coastal cities are better when you come from the literal “Golden Coast?” But having spent just about a month and a half living in the Midwest now and growing up visiting family who live out here my whole life, I propose that we re-examine some tenets of our coastal superiority mindset.

    People in big, coast cities like to think of themselves as the pinnacle of culture and the epitome of worldliness (yes, I admit, we have big heads). However, from what I have seen so far of the small Midwestern town that is my new home, they score much higher on the scale of acceptance (there it is again, folks—the ultimate quality by which I judge a city).

    With family in the Midwest, I am one of those few coastal city dwellers who has been privy to the unwavering kindness of America’s landlocked citizens. Coastal dwellers, I think, often have this view of Midwesterners as ignorant and isolated from the rest of the country. And, I’ll admit, I was wary that the slightly suburban setting of my new college town would breed some of this ignorance that people at the coasts have come to expect of the Midwest.

    But, the beauty of my proximity to Chicago and my attendance at a university that attracts students from all over the world, is that it becomes increasingly difficult to sow exclusion and hate. I see this in the way that my Canvas (a learning management platform for those of you who are not familiar with the power that this website has over the students of America) is set up so that I can input my pronouns for my classmates and professors to view. I saw it on my first day of classes, when students voluntarily added their pronouns into their introductions before the professor asked them to.

    I see it when I take walks in the neighborhoods surrounding campus, and rainbow Pride flags hanging fearlessly next to purple Northwestern flags. I see it in my studies where I’m taking a class that literally covers same-sex relationships in early modern England; did you know that King James I had a known romantic relationship with the Duke of Buckingham?

    Perhaps most striking (and most unlike my former college) is the presence of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center on campus. There are physical spaces for LGBTQ+ students to exist on campus that are provided and sanctioned by the university.

    My introduction to the Midwest has surprised me, I will not lie. As someone who has a big head because I come from the best city in the world—I sincerely hope that the Midwest humbles me. I will be disappointed if it doesn’t.

    Tabitha Parent was born and raised in San Francisco and is currently a sophomore at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Having spent time in three major international cities this year, Parent has observed how different regions of the country welcome LGBTQ+ individuals. In her free time, Parent spends time looking out over Lake Michigan (the view rivals that of the Bay). 

    Published on November 3, 2022