Coming from a school of eight hundred students of which you are familiar and moving into an alien environment filled with complete strangers can, for some, be terrifying. The first few days of college are usually filled with desperate attempts at making friends, and awkward conversations about the familiar past to try and ease the impending doom of the present. Making new friends, especially in a place where you have to probably see these people again, usually pops the question “will I or won’t I come out to them?” This does not apply to all people who define themselves as LGBTQ+ and should not need to exist at all, but for those playing Russian roulette ‘disclosure style’, here are a few words of wisdom.
You are not required to come out to anyone. College is a brand new place and regardless of your new found style and confidence, it is not a requirement to formally announce your sexuality or gender. In an ideal world, no one should even have to consider coming out, but sadly there is still a stigma attached to sexuality and gender. You are not hiding anything from someone that you do not tell; you are simply not making a big deal over it. Never feel pressured into announcing yourself, I know for many it attracts unwanted attention and in certain cases negative press.
Another thing we must consider is how to avoid the idiotic questioning. I’m referring to “So who’s the man in the relationship?”, “Do you decide that one day you like men and another you like women?”or “Are you a boy or a girl?” These are all extremely inappropriate questions, but there are people out there who assume it is okay to ask them. If you are uncomfortable, remember you can say no, put your foot down and demand decent treatment. You are not Google. You are not a spokesperson for the whole of the LGBTQ+ community.
Amidst all this it is really important to have a safe space. The LGBTQ+ Society can provide this. The majority of people in the society are experiencing the same stresses from the outside world. There are also people with whom you can talk to, such as the Welfare Officer or any other LGBTQ+ committee member. It is a judgement-free zone with a big opportunity to make friends that are understanding and kind.
Unfortunately outside of these safe spaces there may be certain people that never give up. They will make your ears bleed by their incessant joking and badgering. They are legitimately bullying. These kinds of people generally use the word “gay” as an insult and think their banter is acceptable and heightening their reputation as a social light in society. In your eyes, they are doing the exact opposite. If telling them to stop is failing abysmally and your temptation to punch them in the face is growing, you need to contact someone with more experience. You need to inform that close friend who will have your back. Get in touch with the LGBTQ+ Committee and see if they have had a similar issue before. If all else fails, the Welfare and Equality Officer for UCD is the person to go to. Those people are not worth your time of day and taking a few minutes to find out how to handle them will do your mental health a favour.
Your mental health is the most important thing. Make sure you keep it healthy and fit so that you can tackle college work and socialising.
If you need tea and a chat with a friendly face, contact Tim, UCD’s LGBTQ+ Welfare Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or pop down to one of our coffee mornings for a chat.