This page is devoted to supporting our GLBTQ students on campus and is organized into sections. The first section is for people who have, or believe they might have a gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or queer roommate. There are also sections for friends and family members. We encourage anyone to look at the Resources link the main page or contact a Safe Zone Ally for additional information.
So you have or suspect that your roommate is gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or queer? The information below is a good guide to assist you with information and what to do with the new information. Coming out to you is a strong indication of trust in you as a person.
In the residence hall environment, we interact daily with a wide variety of people. Statistics have shown that at least 10% of the general population consider themselves to be lesbian or gay, and many more consider themselves to be bisexual. It is very likely that you will meet individuals who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer (GLBTQ) during your time at college.
Why do queer people seem to flaunt their sexuality?
"What people do in their bedrooms is their own business, but I saw two guys walking across campus holding hands." One of the worst forms of oppression for a human being is to be denied emotional expression. Curiously, it is called "expressing love" when heterosexuals hold hands, but "flaunting" when gays, lesbians, and bisexuals express love. How would heterosexuals react if they could not hold hands, kiss, dance together, go to romantic dinners, or be married? Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals who are open with their affection are not trying to shock others, but are just doing what is natural to them and others.
Why do transgender people dress or act "inappropriately"?
When people question those who may identify as transgender express their gender identity, it usually seen as inappropriate or gross. However, one must understand that to express one's gender is a very personal experience and biology does not define how one can express or identify their gender. When a cisgender person (or alternatively, a not trans person) expresses his or her gender identity, it is seen as normal and valid. If you ever seen someone that you are unsure of how to address them, ask! This person will then be able to inform you on what pronouns they prefer (he or she or a gender neutral option such as they). If you ever are wrong about someone's gender identity, and they correct you, don't be offended. They simply want to be addressed as they identify. Remember it's not a personal attack. See it as an opportunity to be understanding.
What should I do if a friend tells me that they are a member of the GLBTQ community? What does that say about me?
Most GLBT people who "come out" would like the same sincere acceptance and encouragement you might want when you tell a friend something special about yourself. Because of many people's homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic attitude (fear and derision of gays, bisexuals, and transfolk), many GLBTQ people are afraid of rejection from their friends. You might first honestly ask yourself how you feel about this news and then discuss it as a caring friend. Some people who find out a close friend is GLBTQ wonder "What does that mean about me?" This is a natural reaction. What it probably means is that your friend trusts you very much. However, liking someone who is GLBTQ does not make you some one who is GLBTQ any more than liking someone smart makes you smart.
If my roommate "comes out" to me, does that mean she or he thinks that I'm GLBTQ too? Is it a proposition for sex?
There is a big difference between "coming out" and "coming on." As discussed above, most GLBTQ people who come out want to be accepted, not hassled. Sometimes a GLBTQ person might "come on" to you, tell you they are attracted to you, or want an intimate relationship with you. You can handle it in the same manner that you would handle a heterosexual approach. Same gender love is as serious and legitimate as different gender love. Again, you should discuss it with your friend and tell them that you value their friendship, but don't feel the same way. Many people would be inclined to feel grossed out and talk about their friend behind their back. This is not appropriate for someone of a different gender and is not appropriate for someone of the same gender.
If I accept my GLBTQ roommate, will he or she bring in lots of GLBTQ friends and push me out?
A formerly taboo subject will be out in the open. You may feel uncomfortable from a lack of experience dealing with queer people who are not "closeted." The GLBTQ friends should respect non-GLBTQ people just as GLBTQ people expect to be respected. Visits by GLBTQ folks are a good opportunity to learn about this large and diverse segment of the population. However, be cautious about presuming that all of your roommate's friends are GLBTQ. Their best friends may be straight.
Won't my friends or parents think I'm GLBTQ if I have a GLBTQ roommate or friend or publicly support GLBTQ people?
Defending equal rights for the GLBTQ community is often a courageous stance to take. Some people may conclude that such a person has a vested interest to do so. It is up to you whether you feel that the people you are defending are worth the risk of occasional accusations or assumptions by others. Remember that a word from heterosexual friends and allies in defense of support of GLBTQ rights can go a long way to help change people's minds. If others question your sexual orientation or gender identity, take it as an opportunity to educate people about how normal it is to be GLBTQ instead of getting offended. If someone suggests you might be queer, and you get offended, it says a lot to your friend who is GLBTQ.
Now that I know my roommate is GLBTQ, I don't feel comfortable about nudity, showering, dressing, etc.
More than likely, you have been living together long enough to trust each other. There is no reason for the trust to diminish now. Your roommate has been GLBTQ all along. Bear in mind that GLBTQ folk are not always comfortable with straight people either. GLBTQ people, just like straight people, are attracted to certain types of folks. Most GLBTQ are not sexually interested in heterosexuals, just as the reverse it true.
Coming out for a student at a college or university can be challenging, especially if you are no longer immediately located near the student.
For families, the PFLAG organization (Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays) is an excellent organization that focuses on support, education, advocacy and information for family members. You can reach them at www.pflag.org.
In addition, here are two links to sites that talk about what to expect now that your student is coming out and may answer some questions for you.
You can reach someone on the Safe Zone committee for questions or information by e-mailing us at email@example.com.