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Your Complete Guide to Coming Out in College


Coming out to family and friends is a very difficult process that LGBTQ+ individuals have to go through. Whether you already came out in high school or are looking to be your true self in college, coming out to your college classmates, peers and professors can be hard to do, especially when you may not know any of them. We’ve talked to Dr. Frankie Bashan, psychologist, relationship coach and matchmaker, to give you advice on how to navigate that difficult transition in order to have a smooth entry into the college world.

Build a support network

If you’re not exactly ready to come out to your roommate or new friends, joining an LGBTQ+ organization on your campus can help ease nerves and give you a strong support network to help you through whatever hesitations you may be having. Even if you have come out already, these organizations can foster friendships and help keep you in the loop about all things LGBTQ+ at your college.

“You want to make sure you have a lot of support so that if you are confronted with situations that are shaming or people are not very compassionate or understanding, you have a place to go with those feelings, process them, and you don’t feel so alone,” Dr. Frankie says.

Most schools have LGBTQ+ alliances to support the queer community. If your school isn’t up-to-date on LGBTQ+ matters, the counseling center can be a good place to talk to someone about any difficulties you may be facing.

Better yet, you can start an organization yourself! Starting a club or support group is a great way to meet people and foster leadership skills, not to mention a great résumé booster. Depending on your college, you may need a certain number of interested members and/or a faculty advisor. Details should be found on your college’s website.

Related: 4 Coming-Out Stories That Will Inspire You

Casually mention your sexuality

If you have a strong support network and feel like you’re ready to come out, bringing up your sexuality in conversation can be a smooth start to coming out.

“If you feel like outing yourself is the right and safe thing for you to do, casually mentioning it is always the best way to go in my opinion,” shares Stephanie Wolf, a junior at James Madison University. “In my three years of college, even as a New York liberal living in conservative Virginia, I have gotten very little backlash.”

If it feels like an awkward topic to bring up out of the blue, there are other ways you can integrate your LGBTQ+ life into conversation.

Bring up your involvement in gay-straight alliances from high school

Although not everyone in gay-straight alliances is part of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s a simple way to get your foot in the door. By letting your peers know you were involved in gay-straight alliances in high school, it may lead them to ask more questions about your involvement. This can lead to a conversation about your sexuality that doesn’t feel forced or uncomfortable.

Dr. Frankie suggests saying, “I’m involved in this organization and it’s something I’ve been curious about myself.” This way, your peers will know that you’re exploring your sexuality and will come out at your own pace.

Introduce your same-sex significant other (or past relationships) in conversation

The bulk of the first few days of college or orientation are going to be spent getting to know your peers. Of course, a natural topic of conversation is going to be significant others. If you have a same-sex significant other, bring them up during a conversation. This will let people know you’re into girls without explicitly saying it. They may ask questions or be curious about it, but it’s a great way to let people know the real you.

“When you’re talking about exes you could say, ‘Oh, well my ex-girlfriend or my ex was a woman or a girl,’” Dr. Frankie says. “If you’re not fully out yet or aren’t 100 percent sure you want to come out yet, you could say, ‘My last partner was a girl, but I’m not exactly sure how I stand on that. I’m saying that because I trust you and I’m going to come out at my own pace.’”

If you don’t have an SO, bring up past relationships to get your point across. Just as people will end up discussing ex-boyfriends and hook-ups, you can do the same! If you’ve never had a same-sex relationship, that’s fine too! There are other ways you can bring up your sexuality.

Bring up your LGBTQ+ identity in the classroom

If you want to come out to your professors and classmates but aren’t sure how to do so, try integrating your LGBTQ+ identity into the classroom. Writing a paper or completing a project on an LGBTQ+ issue can be a good way to let your professors and peers know about your sexuality without telling them directly. If you’re feeling super confident, bringing up your LGBTQ+ identity in a classroom discussion can be a great way to educate your peers while coming out at the same time.

“In class, if the topic comes up—homosexuality or politics about how gay marriage is legalized—raise your hand and say, ‘I can speak from personal experiences,’” Dr. Frankie says. “I think it’s empowering to do that.” When doing this, you have to know that everyone will have a different reaction. “It’s important to consider that not everybody’s going to think it’s okay and how you are going to deal with that,” she adds. With your support system and confidence, you should be in good shape.

Be confident

The most important thing when navigating coming out is to have confidence. If you’re ready to tell people about your sexual orientation, tell them! If these are people you’re going to be friends with (potentially for the rest of your college career and beyond), you’ll want them to know the real you and be comfortable with who you are.

“The more confident you appear, the more comfortable other people will be,” Dr. Frankie says. “If you feel not that confident but are acting as if you’re confident, the outcome sometimes will be in your favor.”

“The most important thing is to be confident with who you are and make sure people know you respect yourself,” Stephanie says. “Because if they can see that you have no problem being who you are, chances are they won’t have a problem with it either.”

Use your past experiences and your current involvement in LGBTQ+ matters to let people in on how you feel and how they can be a good ally. “College is a time to embrace every piece of yourself that you have to offer the world, so be proud in whatever way you’re comfortable,” Stephanie adds. College is a whole new world, and there’s no better time to let your inner self shine through.

Coming out in college shouldn’t be a dreaded experience. With a strong support network and confidence, you can let people know who the real you truly is and form lasting relationships with people who respect and care about you. Good luck, collegiettes!

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