Are you gay and out in college? Or, are you planning on coming out in college? College is much less insular than high school campuses can be. It's a great time to explore your interests and your sexuality.
I didn't come out until I went to college. Here are the things I would've done differently and suggestions on how you can better your college experience as a gay man:
Dorms and Residence Halls
Living in a residence hall as a freshman was the first time I ever lived on my own. It was overwhelming at first, but I was excited to get away from home. I knew I was attracted to guys; but I was way too scared to explore my feelings so I stayed in the closet for a while. I was also somewhat distant from my co-ed hall mates. I feared my secret might ruin my new friendships.
- What I would have done differently: Looking back on the situation, most of the guys and girls around me were also excited about being away from home and exploring their own interests. Months later, when I did come out, I found that most of them didn't care at all. I wasted great bonding time and denied myself some wonderful experiences by not being myself. Of course, you should only come out when you are ready (and I wasn't at the time), but try not to make assumptions about your new suite or hall mates. They are looking to find themselves in their own ways. You are entitled to the same.
After months of thinking I was the only one, I ran across a guy in one of my classes that I had a feeling was gay. Tired of having no one to talk with about my sexuality, I did everything I could to befriend him. I joined his math group. I asked if he wanted to study together. I made random comments about lecture. We eventually became good friends and came out to each other.
- What I would have done differently: I invested a lot of time trying to figure out if one guy was gay, as if he was my only option. And while it paid off and I had a new gay friend, looking back I would've explored more. There were many gay and gay-friendly groups on campus that I could have joined to meet other gay people. I could have also reached out and befriended more of my dorm friends. I later found out that they knew other gay people and could've made a connection. When looking for gay friends on campus, don't put all of your hopes on one person. Explore and be proactive about your search.
I longed for a boyfriend, especially after I started meeting gay friends. I would chat with guys online, but either couldn't get up the nerve to meet them or I just didn't think they were a good fit. I didn't give up my search, though. I knew eventually I would make a connection with a guy I liked. But when I did meet my first boyfriend, it was in the most unlikely of places–a club I joined. It wasn't a gay club, but there were gay guys in it. Me and a few of the guys eventually became friends since we spent so much time together at club meetings. One of the guys and I became especially close. He was my first boyfriend and my first love.
- What I would have done differently: Prior to meeting my first boyfriend, I became more and more eager to find a man. It would have been best if I let the situation happen instead of letting my desperation drive my actions. Usually, the best dating situations happen in the most unlikely of circumstances. When I stopped seeking, I found a great guy. Just like making gay friends, it's best to get out there and explore social or academic options on campus. You and another great single guy will eventually find each other. Another lesson I learned was taking a more active role in my safety, which brings me to the next topic.
Meeting someone online is a cool way to get to know them–initially. I would chat with guys online during study breaks and off time. I developed an entire network of online buddies. But, after some time I wanted to meet them face-to-face. No online dating questionnaire or number of chat hours can replace an in-person chemistry check.
- What I would have done differently: There were many times when I would meet up with online guys only to discover that we didn't quite connect in person. Also, I didn't take my safety into account enough times. Unfortunately, not everyone online is on the up and up. You should always follow these safety tips before meeting an online buddy in person. Also, if you have a suite mate or close buddy, give them your schedule and keep them up on where you are traveling around campus (especially at night). It's always better to side with safety.
Some people choose to explore same gender sexual experiences while in college. A first same-sex experience can either be a wowing confirmation of your emotional attractions or not at all what you expect (or a little bit of both).
- Suggestions: Take your time when exploring your the physical aspects of your sexuality. There is no rush, nor does a prize go to the quickest explorer. It's best to be selective about who you experience with. Know the person, get proof of their HIV status, practice safer sex, and always keep your safety in mind.
How To Find a Gay and Lesbian Friendly College
Looking for a gay-friendly college environment? The climate on a college campus is an important factor when making a choice about a higher learning institution. Whether you are already out or plan on coming out in college, a gay-affirmative campus can foster memorable experiences. Here's how you can find a gay and lesbian friendly college:
Do your research.
Have you decided what you want to study or have a general area of interest? First, research schools based on their academic programs and your interest in their areas of study. Start with directories like Princeton Review's The Best 368 Best Colleges and U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2009. They publish annual rankings of colleges and universities based on region, academic programs and other criteria.
Check their discrimination policies.
Once you've narrowed your search, check each university's discrimination policies. Each school should publish their policies online or have them available in their administrative offices. Be weary if the school does not have a published discrimination policy or ones that don't mention sexual orientation or gender expression.
Check for gender neutral housing.
A growing number of colleges and universities are offer gender neutral housing to meet the needs of their diverse student population. A campus with gender neutral housing has demonstrated that they are not only abreast of, but are concerned about their gay lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.
Search for LGBT clubs and organizations.
Search on the university web site for LGBT-based organizations. The more clubs and groups that they have, the better potential for a more gay-affirmative experience on campus. Not only do some of these groups lobby the university concerning gay issues, but many are social and support clubs that can assist you on campus. The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals publishes a directory of college and university offices that are run by at least one paid professional staff or graduate assistant directing LGBT resources.
Scan the course bulletin.
Have you spotted any lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer study themed courses in the college bulletin? Not only are these courses a good indicator of a campus' openness and diversification, but they may fit perfectly in your academic areas of interest.
Visit the campus and surrounding cities
The best indication of a college's environment is a campus visit. Schedule an appointment with the admissions office or attend an open house. Don't be shy about asking if the university has any of the above things mentioned. Also, cruise through surrounding cities, looking for gay activity in the area. Your college experience may expand outside of campus. Is there a gay center nearby? What about gay bars, clubs or cafes? The gay vibrancy of the surrounding area can often spill over into a more gay-friendly campus and vice versa.
Finding a gay and lesbian-friendly campus takes research, but the pay off comes in a more affirmative experience for you as a gay student on campus.
Scholarships and Support for LGBT Students:
The Point Foundation provides financial scholarships, mentoring and support for LGBT students. For Fall 2007, The Point Foundation has 38 new scholars, which brings the young organizations total to 86. The Point Foundation invests an average of $32,000 - $35,000 per scholar per year and currently boasts 26 alumnae.
Who Qualifies for a Point Scholarship?:
The Point Foundation suggests you, "Review the current Point Scholars’ biographies to get a good idea of what we are looking for in our scholars. You do not need straight A's to apply but we are looking for individuals who have proven leadership skills, excellent scholastic achievements and want to make a difference in the world. All applicants are evaluated on the totality of their situation including, academic accomplishments, financial, emotional and social need, extracurricular activities, personal circumstances and goals for the future."
How Do I Apply?:
The Point Foundation web site provides all of the information you'll need to apply to be a Point Scholar.
I'm Not a Student, But I Want To Help:
A college education can cost a single student anywhere from $8,000 and $40,000 per year. The Point Foundation believes in caring for the needs of their scholars, which may be the full cost of their education of just living expenses. You can help Point help our future leaders by giving to the organization.
More on The Point Foundation:
Read this exclusive interview with Point Foundation Executive Director, Jorge Valencia.
Suggested ReadingJust so that there is not confusion here, this is an article written originally by Ramon Johnson, for About.com Guide. I reposted it here because I thought someone might find it useful, and edited a little here and there, adding some additional resources. It is meant as a way to give references to guys who might be reading this blog and are going through some of the same things I was going through in college. Maybe if I had been able to read an article such as this, it would have made the coming out process easier for me.