September 11, 2007

Coming Out in College

Hi everyone!

Recently, someone asked me for advice about coming out in college.

I wanted to ask you guys for suggestions, both for the person coming out (as gay, queer, bi, trans, or whatever), and also for their friends. When you were coming out, what was the process like for you? Who did you talk to first? Why? What was most helpful to you? What was most difficult? If you're an ally, what are some experiences or suggestions you can give to other people wanting to support their friends?

Please leave comments (and any suggestions for books or other helpful resources). Thanks so much!


emily2 said...

When you were coming out, what was the process like for you?

It was really easy coming out to my straight friends and my family. It was harder to figure out how I fit in with the gay community.

Who did you talk to first?

Other bloggers/net denizens.


Common interests. Also, the cloak of semi-anonymity helped me be more honest. Some of my thoughts were un-PC within the gay community at the time.

What was most helpful to you?

The internet. You can find anyone and anything on the internet.

What was most difficult?

Realizing that I didn't have to cut my hair, ghetto-ize myself, and become involved in radical politics in order to be considered a real lesbian. (Look, it was the 90s! Things are different now.) When I was in college, everyone who was "out" was really militant and butch, and it was off-putting, because I felt that I wouldn't fit in if I came out.

Sorry if this was un-PC, but those were my honest thoughts at the time.

Emily said...

what are some experiences or suggestions you can give to other people wanting to support their friends?

i think wanting to support is such a huge part of being supportive that it merits me making such a stupid obvious statement as this one. coming out wouldn't be intimidating if everyone was supportive. so if you're a straight and/or cisgender ally, a big part of being supportive is being out as an ally. let your friends know you're supportive. that's pretty easy.

i feel like the only tricky part of that 'supportive' thing is understanding what 'supportive' is. does it mean you have to be like debbie on qaf? is it 'supportive' enough to be like those religious southern homophobes who 'hate the sin, love the sinner' ?

in my experience, the best way to be an ally is to be the one grounded person who realizes what's going on. you don't have to be gay to understand or to be supportive. i am an lgbt ally because i'm straight and because i'm cisgender.

i know i like boys. if society prescribed that i had to date girls, i would be rather upset. i know i'm female. if my parents told me i couldn't wear pink, i would cry. these things are part of my identity, and they would be regardless of whether i was born with a vagina or a penis.

flip things around and think about what life would be like if people were constantly asking what you think caused your heterosexuality, or whether you'd trust your kids to a heterosexual teacher. there's no reason you can't understand what your friends are going through and be an ally who can think straight without being ridiculous.

wannatakethisoutside said...

As an ally, I think it's important that I stand up for folks at times when no one else or few other people are standing up for them. That way, I can make myself visible as a supporter, and offensive comments don't go unchecked just because someone does not want to single themselves out - they shouldn't have to. That's what using privilege is for.

As for being out, I still haven't figured out exactly a word to use to describe myself to the extent I identify as queer so it's hard to be out other than just saying I don't fully identify as straight and non-trans. People usually assume I am a lesbian unless they meet my non-trans male partner, so I don't really have to come out much. I just have to clarify what kind of queer I am. I am in basically the same place I was when I started college.

Anonymous said...

I'm an asexual at Harvard, and I've been trying to figure out whether to come out, or how to come out, or what.

Because it's probably the least common orientation, I worry that people won't have heard of it or won't accept it or will think that I need psychological treatment.

It's not doing me any harm to not be out, because it's not as though I need to be linking up with others with similar sexual identities. But I wouldn't mind people knowing.

What do you all think I should do?

icarus said...

hi anonymous,

thanks for your comment! i think it's really great that you are interested in sharing your orientation on campus. it's obviously a personal decision either way, and i wish you luck on whatever you decide.

i was also wondering - would you be interested in writing a guest post (anonymously, or with a pseudonym)for the Quench blog about some of the issues or experiences you encounter as someone who is asexual? if you want to, feel free to write something up and mail it to us (quench.zine@gmail)! i think a lot of people would be really interested to read it.

thanks for commenting!

wannatakethisoutside said...

Hi Anonymous!

Welcome to Quench! I'm glad you came by and commented about what's going on with you.

Several of the folks who I know who identify as asexual feel like their sexuality is particularly uncommon. In some ways, I think we will never know how common or uncommon it is while asexuality continues to be so infrequently discussed.

I think that everyone in the world has a lot to learn from each other. I know that I have learned a lot when other people have taken a risk shared aspects of their experiences with me, and I know that my experiences have taught others in certain ways.

That said, the most important person in the equation is you! Do what feels safe and productive to you. I almost said do what feels comfortable to you, but over the years if I have learned anything from working to build a queer community (and I would count asexuals as part of the community I am a part of both because I know asexual folks who happen to be a part of my community and because I think that we all have something at stake in that we are going against mainstream assumptions of what a fulfilling life looks like) it is that the most change happens, and the most learning happens when we all push our comfort zones a little. Not so much that we do not feel safe, but just enough so we are within that zone which is uncomfortable but still safe. But that's just the activist in me and I know not everyone is an activist!

Only you can know what feels comfortable and what feels safe to you.

I hope you keep coming by Quench and telling us what you think. And hey, if we fuck up, feel free to slap us around. Sometimes we're completely wrong and that's part of why we're glad to see new faces (or typists as the case may be) who can call us on our stuff.