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Sponsored by Counseling Services, our goals are to:
- Increase the visibility of the LGBTQ community
- Raise awareness of diversity
- Educate others about sexual orientation and gender identity/expression
Our efforts are part of the counseling center’s larger initiative to cultivate an inclusive, supportive and open community.
In addition to combating oppression, heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia, we hope that these efforts will help us achieve a rich, respectful learning environment that challenges inequities.
Coming out is a lifelong process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts and appreciates his or her sexual orientation or gender identity and begins to share that with others. Part of the process involves coping with societal responses and attitudes.
There is no one right or wrong or even one way to come out. Some people are aware of their sexual identity at an early age; others arrive at this awareness only after many years. You have the freedom and choice to come out when, how and to whomever you choose. (A person may be “out” in some situations or to certain family members or associates and not others.)
The process is marked by three phases. The first begins with self-acknowledgement. The second involves coming out to others, including family members, friends and/or co-workers. The third is the ongoing process of living freely as a LGBTQ person who has spoken to the closest individuals in his or her life and is now able to tell new people more fluidly — where, how and when it feels appropriate.
An individual might want to come out to friends and/or relatives to stop wasting emotional energy on the "hiding game"; be able to be "whole" around them; or to make a statement that being gay is okay.
Things to consider when coming out to others:
- Think about what you want to say and choose the time and place carefully.
- Be aware of what the other person is going through. The best time for you might not be the best time for someone else.
- Present yourself honestly and remind the other person that you are the same individual you were yesterday.
- Don’t give up hope if you don’t initially get the reaction you wanted.
- Some people need more time than others to come to terms with what they have heard.
- Consider your motives for coming out. It is generally not a good idea to come out in anger or during an argument, using your sexuality as a weapon. Many people decide to come out in order to deepen their relationships and enhance authenticity.
- Meet with supportive friends afterwards to discuss the experience.
Be prepared for a complex — even negative — initial reaction from some people. Whatever the reaction, do not forget that it took time for you to come to terms with your sexuality; it is equally important to give others the time and space they need to process the disclosure.
How to Be an Ally
An LGBTQ ally is person who supports and honors sexual and gender diversity, acts to challenge heterosexist and gender biased remarks or behaviors, and acknowledges the potential for bias within him- or herself. He or she also promotes a sense of community and teaches others about the importance of outreach.
There are many ways you can become a more informed ally, including:
1. View, read, and discuss websites, books, newspapers, documentaries, and other publications to learn about the realities and challenges faced by people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or queer.
2. Be open. Be open about your relationships with LGBTQ friends, family, or other acquaintances that you value, respect, and appreciate as members of your social circle. Don’t intentionally omit the fact that the person identifies as LGBTQ when you talk about him or her. In some cases, there might be an understanding about not disclosing the person’s sexual orientation to others depending upon his/her coming out process. If you are not sure, ask.
3. Speak out against offensive slurs or jokes and make sure that you don’t use them in conversation.
4. Don’t avoid acknowledgement of a couple’s relationship just because you are uncertain as to how a LGBTQ friend, family member or acquaintance would like their significant other to be referred to or introduced. If you are not sure, ask.
5. Help the kids in your life learn about and appreciate all different kinds of families. Be mindful that children are constantly receiving conflicting messages about gay or transgendered people from peers and the media. These messages have impact. Start a conversation about it.
6. Take a stand. Don’t join organizations that discriminate; quit ones that do. Let them know why you are leaving or not joining in the first place.
7. Support LGBTQ owned/operated and friendly businesses.
8. Encourage and support policy and program development for LGBTQ faculty, staff, and students. These policies and programs serve to promote a positive, affirming and safe university climate. Attend programming to show support for the community and to stay informed of the issues.
9. Write to your local or campus newspaper. Come out as an ally and discuss why you support respectful and equal treatment for LGBTQ people.
10. Correspond with or visit public policy makers. Make it known that you are a straight ally who votes and voices support of equal rights.
Adapted from PFLAG.