Building a Positive GLBTQ Community
Many GLBTQ students coming to W&L are afraid it will be a difficult place to be open about their sexual orientation. The campus community is small and close-knit, and it can seem conformist and socially conservative at times. Sexual minority students often worry that they will be the subject of gossip or even discrimination and harassment. The good news is that GLBTQ students who have chosen to come out here have usually found the process to be much more positive than they had expected. Straight peers have generally been quite accepting, supportive, and welcoming to sexual minority students. GLBTQ students themselves have developed a much larger, more cohesive community than existed here even five years ago, with a very positive sense of friendship and mutual support within this group. There are still negative and uninformed attitudes about GLBTQ people here, as there are in much of the rest of the country, but the W&L community has made rapid progress and there is momentum for W&L to continue to be an increasingly welcoming and supportive place for sexual minority individuals.
If you are a student struggling with issues related to your sexual orientation, there are several important things to remember:
- Being gay, lesbian, or bisexual is normal. Ideas about homosexual or bisexual orientation being a psychological or developmental problem have been discarded as there has been increasing evidence that sexual orientation is biologically determined and is a normal variant. Think of it like you would being left-handed. It’s different from the majority, but doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong.
- You don’t have to cope alone. W&L has a number of resources to help GLBTQ students (listed below). Coming to terms with being a sexual minority is a developmental challenge; having friends who have been there and having help from counselors who can provide guidance and support can make this challenge much easier.
- You are in control of information about your sexuality. It is very important for GLBTQ individuals to be able to share information in their own way and on their own schedule. You should choose when and how to come out. If you utilize any of the resources available for GLBTQ students, your confidentiality and right to control your process of coping will be respected.
- Don’t buy into negative attitudes about sexual minorities if you happen to encounter them. Many gay/bi/questioning teens and young adults have taken in many negative cultural attitudes about gay people, a process sometimes referred to as “internalized homophobia”. Don’t let anyone else determine what you should believe about your own sexual orientation. Would you buy it if you heard someone say that white people were superior to African Americans or Latinos? You deserve to be viewed and treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else.