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  WINDY CITY TIMES

VIEWS College for LGBTQ students
by Kelsi Williams
2020-01-22

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Finding yourself and becoming comfortable with your identity is something that people within the LGBTQ community struggle with every day.

There is coming to terms with your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and how you choose to express yourself. Doing all of this while probably still being in middle school or high school—the most revealing and personally difficult times of our lives—is a one-way ticket to StressedOutVille.

Moving out or going to college is something that a lot of young people in the LGBTQ community look forward to and find solace in. This freedom from sometimes judgmental parents and peers gives them a chance to either start over or to really begin to show who they are on the inside. Some people even wait until they go to college to come out of the closet because they know that the experience will be better than when they were living at home. College really gives a lot of LGBTQ people hope.

But while this can be true, a lot of people are able to find their support systems within their own families and childhood friends. Going to a new place where you don't know anyone can be extremely stressful for anyone, but it can definitely can make LGBTQ students very nervous. On top of having to meet and befriend new people, they will also have to come out either all over again or for the first time to people that they just met. It is definitely something that can be horrifying.

I graduated high school in 2018 and began college that fall. I was already openly identifying myself as bisexual and I was in a long-term relationship with another girl. I was not the type of person who was scared to be herself, but once I got to college, I suddenly became more closed off about who I was. I got extremely anxious to disclose the fact that I was with a woman or anything regarding my sexuality. I did not feel safe.

Many colleges have found ways to let LGBTQ students know they are welcome and will always have a safe space no matter where they go. For example, the University of Kansas not only has a Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, but it even has a place for LGBTQ students of color.

There are even some companies and websites that help LGBTQ students find colleges based on where they think they will fit in. Some even provide a guide about the different things that they should know before they fully commit to going to a specific college. Not a lot of people know about all of those opportunities to educate themselves about their schools so they end up in a place where they still can not be themselves.

Doing your research and finding out the different resources that the campus will have for LGBTQ students is always something that can be done to make you feel more comfortable, but sometimes it is all about actual experience. Many people have only applied to schools that have active LGBTQ communities and/or safe spaces, but being in the school and actually experiencing it is the only way a person can figure out if the school is for them.

Branching out and going to school and/or just moving away is a great way to explore and express yourself—but it is also important to remember that you should not put your whole heart into college being an escape. As a community, we have to protect ourselves and each other, and we will not always meet supportive individuals everywhere we go. Be free and be yourself—but be aware.

Kelsi Williams is sophomore in college majoring in journalism and mass communication. She specializes in opinion writing and social media management.


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