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A declassified guide to coming out in college

by Hazen Center for Integrated Care
Tue, Mar 6th 2018 08:15 pm

Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where we weren’t judged on our sexual orientation or gender identity? Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world like that. Stepping outside of what is perceived as normal within our daily lives and society is always difficult, and may even seem impossible. 

Our society so often enforces the idea that heterosexuality is the norm. This is part of the reason why coming out can be so daunting. Coming out is the process of understanding, valuing and sharing with others what your sexual orientation or gender identity is. 

When at college, many students who identify within the LGBTQ community may want to start coming out, but do not know how to start. 

For many people, coming out can make a person feel all kinds of negative feelings, especially in the beginning of the process. They may feel nervous, embarrassed and/or ashamed. Even after initially coming out, and being openly out, these feelings will likely persist in some ways, especially because people will continue to come out to new people throughout your life. 

Because of this, here are some things to remember as you come out, although it is important to remember doing so is not required and not always desired, you are normal. There is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of, and being authentically you is amazing–whoever you are or whatever your circumstances, coming out can be both challenging and rewarding.

The more comfortable you are with the idea of coming out, the more comfortable you will be coming out. The first step in doing so is to come out to yourself. As it says on Planned Parenthood’s website, “Coming out is a very personal decision.”  

You have to be tolerant and accepting of who you are. This may not be an easy feat for everyone. It takes time and effort to get to the point where you are content with who you are, and that is okay. Once you can accept yourself and your identity, coming out to others makes it all the more possible. 

How do you come out to others? According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s “A Resource Guide to Coming Out,” coming out will be different for everyone and there is not exact science to doing so; there is no right or wrong way to come out. It can be a struggle to navigate who you come out to and when, especially because coming out to a parent versus a friend or classmate will look different. 

The first thing you should consider is your safety and well-being. Will coming out to a particular person jeopardize these things? If you think or know it might, trust in your instinct and come out to others first. You should come out only when you are ready and feel comfortable doing so. 

You can also choose not to come out to certain people or within certain environments because your identity and romantic life are yours. Making a coming out plan can help with all of this, as well as other obstacles you may face. 

Thetrevorproject.org has a great resource in its support center webpage called “Coming Out as You,” to help you plan how, to who, when and where you want to come out.  

When coming out to someone, it’s a good idea to consider what you want to say and how you want to say it. Think about what support systems and coping mechanisms you can fall back on for reassurance. 

In addition, think about how you will respond if you are met with either a negative, a positive or a neutral response, so you may be better prepared. 

Turning to resources you are surrounded with can assist in the coming out process, too. We are fortunate enough that The College at Brockport has various resources for coming out. One of these is the Center for Select Respect, which has a focus on LGBTQ empowerment. The center can work with various clubs and organizations to provide education about the LGBTQ community and can collaborate on events to educate others around campus.

Other local resources that are available to on campus students include the PRIDE organization and Hazen Counseling Center.  Brockport’s website has access to these centers and organizations. 

Find the love, support and confidence you deserve by coming out when and if you are ready. You are not alone; there are a lot more people who want to come out, are in the process of coming out or are out already than you think. Take comfort in this and break outside of the constraints our society has placed on us. 



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