Queer students discuss mental health amid COVID-19

LGBTQ students struggle with being off campus, away from their community and resources.


Naz Khoury is most comfortable being themselves when living on campus. 

“When I was in college, I was never misgendered,” said Khoury, a freshman visual studies and psychology major. “I could wear whatever I wanted, do whatever I wanted and say whatever I wanted. It’s taking a toll having to go back and being the way I was before, where I couldn’t be myself.” 

Khoury is one of many students who lived in university housing but decided to move back home when Temple University announced it would move almost all classes online on Sept. 3. But moving back home meant Khoury and other LGBTQ students have to cope with the loss of campus support and an outlet to express themselves. 

Tuttleman Counseling Services, one of these resources, only offers remote therapy for students who are within state lines this semester, according to their website.

Michael Mangino, a counselor at Tuttleman, specializes in therapy for LGBTQ, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. He’s heard from these students, both individually and in group settings, that they are concerned about being home. 

As a counselor, Mangino has worked with worried students to make sure they can share their experiences confidentially, especially while doing so in an environment that may be traumatizing or distressing to them, he said.

“Some students elect to sit in their cars and have their therapy sessions, some prefer to go on a walk where they can be alone,” Mangino said. “We really try to make it a safe space even if they are back home.”

When students cannot speak as freely as they need, Mangino works with them to come up with code words or phrases so they can maintain their privacy and safety.

“We are really trying to be flexible to meet the needs of people during what is arguably probably one of the hardest times folks have faced, especially college students, in their lives,” Mangino said.

Amanda Pascale, a sophomore undeclared student who is on a temporary leave of absence, moved into an apartment in Philadelphia so she did not have to worry about losing access to therapy when classes went fully online. 

Initially, therapy was a way for Pascale to navigate her own sexuality. It was also helpful to her while she was in quarantine, when she was living with a friend whose family did not have accepting views. Because of these differences, there was often conflict where she lived, Pascale said.

Pascale has coped with school and life during COVID-19 by being involved in student groups such as Lowkey Acapella and Insomnia Theatre. Here, Pascale feels she can be open about who she is, she said.

“They’re not officially therapy based, but I would call these things I’m involved in my therapy,” Pascale said.

Alison McKee, director of the university’s Wellness Resource Center, said that as the university continues remote activities, the WRC has to continually ensure that LGBTQ students can have a safe, welcome space despite the distance.

“If you are living in a home that is not supportive or you’re away from your typical support systems that you’d have if you were on campus, even accessing programs on Zoom might be hard for somebody depending on who they live with,” McKee said. “We’re trying to make it so people still feel that sense of community.”

McKee feels that it is just as important to hold their typical programming of wellness webinars as it is to hold events like National Coming Out Week, which she sees as an important time for students who are missing the freedom of campus to celebrate who they are.

“The more marginalized identities we’re holding, the harder it is to feel okay,” McKee said. 

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