It isn’t uncommon to hear gays and lesbians of yesteryear recant stories of when they came out and look back on their college years as their most productive in the “outing” process. But even as these generations phase out and new ones move in with changing social norms and new means of communication, some things just don’t change.
There is a good reason why these people reflect on their college years when they consider their coming out stories: the years you spend in college are some of the most formative in pinpointing identity and the personality traits that make you, well, you.
I’ve read countless stories now of youth that decide to come out at an increasingly younger age. Some slap on the label as early as 13 years old. While I’m all for raising the rate of people who come out of the closet in general, I must say I am slightly irked that today’s youth feels the need to unnecessarily identify themselves with a group at such an early age.
While a 13-year-old can grasp the basic gist of whether they like looking up the cheerleaders’ skirts or turning their heads as the bubble- butt football player hustles by, he or she cannot determine the complexities and gray area that lie within the nature of sexuality. I cannot truthfully say that my sexual interests have remained constant over the past year, let alone the past seven.
Nonetheless, if you’re a 16-year-old who feels comfortable with your sexuality and is comfortable with talking about it, I would never discourage such a decision. However, I would advise those who have since held off on coming out to consider the point in their lives they currently stand in, and analyze what that may mean for their future in the GLBT world.
Temple offers something many college campuses do not: a safe haven when it is most needed. Through my travels, I still have not found a university so wonderfully diverse and willing to bring GLBT issues to the forefront of the discussion. If you’re gay and closeted, I can guarantee you relative safety and comfort in an environment where you won’t just be tolerated, you’ll be embraced with love.
Coming out as a college student means opening a door of possibility that may not be quite as easily opened in the years to follow. If opening this door now is the equivalent of stepping out into a sunlit, flower-laden garden, opening this door post-graduation may mean thrusting open a jammed door into a messy bedroom filled with dirty laundry. Your ability to learn, to grow and to welcome your sexuality and newfound identity is bolstered by the nurturing people and general community that surround you.
As Temple’s GLBT community pushes through this year’s National Coming Out Week, I encourage the loud and proud to draw on their coming out stories as a means for inspiration for those who have yet to find the strength to turn on their own voice box. Prove to these people my point made from this column, that the strength and compassion of a community like Temple’s can overcome any barrier of silence with a tale of triumph.
Brandon Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.