Counselor and GALA members offer help to LGBTQ students.
By Zachary-Taylor Wright
Personal counselors and members of the Gay, Allied and Lesbian Association on campus suggest students considering coming out attend an LGBTQ support group, ensure they are entirely comfortable with their identity and plan for the best time to share their story.
Yvonne Schilling, licensed professional counselor, suggests students talk to a counselor before coming out to ensure they develop a support system.
“Talk to a counselor first,” Schilling said. “I think it’s something that needs to be explored and processed, so that the person has the support needed when they do come out because it’s a very unique experience, and it can be, depending on their situation, liberating or it can be hurtful.”
Ryan Garza, psychology sophomore and GALA member, echoes a similar sentiment. “Make sure you have all the emotional support you need just in case it doesn’t turn out the way you hope it (will) or the way you wanted it to be,” Garza said. “I had a situation where I was OK, but not everybody gets that same kind of reaction.”
Schilling also suggests students pay attention to timing and not coming out over the holidays “because everyone’s got enough stress over the holidays.”
Schilling says students should talk to a counselor about whether their environment is safe enough to share their story; she defines safe as a place where students will be accepted and their basic needs will continue to be met after they come out.
She suggests that LGBTQ students look into resources such as the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization specializing in crisis intervention and LGBTQ youth social networking, and the Thrive Youth Center, an organization that houses homeless LGBTQ youth ages 17-24.
GALA president Aurelio Alcocer says students planning to come out should find a private, calm place to open up to their family or friends. “Make sure that it’s safe, that it’s quiet and that it’s intimate,” Alcocer said.
Alcocer suggests friends and family of LGBTQ students sympathize with the apprehension many people feel when coming out. “Some people may not see it as a big deal, but it’s a very big deal to come out,” Alcocer said. “The person coming out, it’s crazy for them — they’re scared. They have so many emotions going through their mind.”
Alcocer and Garza suggest that students test people’s reaction to LGBTQ topics before coming out to family or friends if they fear the reaction may be negative or volatile. “If they (parents) have strict religious views, I would maybe not tell them but hint or just play around with it a little bit because you never know,” Alcocer said. “You may have strict parents that have really strict religious views, but they may push them aside for their kid.”
Solomon Johnson, GALA treasurer and communication design sophomore, said, “You have to find the strength in yourself to know that you can make it through life, to know that you are worthy, to know that you are a person that is greatly loved. You are a person of many capabilities. Don’t let what anybody has to say get you down.”
Solomon says the process is difficult but worth it “because it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but it does get better. It really does get better.”