GLBTQ Survival Tips

Going to college can be a fulfilling and exciting time for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning students, like it is for many heterosexual students. If you have come to college shortly after high school, it is a transition to increased freedom and responsibility. For GLBTQ students, in particular, a university or college offers many more opportunities, intellectual and social, to learn about themselves and what the world has to offer them.

One of the most important tasks during the first year at college is to make connections socially and academically so that you feel like you are “in place” within the university. This network of connections will change over your time at college, however, establishing it is essential to having an enjoyable and successful first year. For GLBTQ students, making connections raises the question of how open to be about your sexual/gender identity or about questioning it. No one but you should determine whether or at what pace you should disclose to others. On the other hand, you will benefit greatly from finding people you can trust to be open with about all of who you are. So look for those people who seem trustworthy. The UNH campus has a Safe Zones program, in which faculty, staff, and students can attend an educational program about being GLBT at UNH and then choose to display a button or sticker that says “UNH Safe Zone” and has two triangles, one pink and one black, within a green circle. People displaying a button/sticker are indicating that they are accepting regarding GLBT issues and open to talking about them. If you live in a residence hall, your RA or Hall Director might be someone you want to turn to as an ally.

As you feel more in place at the university, you will have many choices to make about how involved to be in various student and academic groups, including GLBTQ community groups. There are as many different ways to make your college years rewarding as there are students. After overcoming heterosexist messages of how everyone “should” be, you don’t need to conform to other groups’ messages regarding how to be, including messages about how to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, or even whether it is okay to be questioning. There is a great diversity within the GLBTQ community, although it may not always be immediately apparent. So give yourself permission and time to learn and experience the different ways of being GLBTQ, so you can then choose what feels right for you. Also, as important as being GLBTQ is to your sense of yourself, give yourself opportunities to interact with many different people. It is from these interactions that some of the most valuable learning happens.

College life is full of opportunities. Make the best use of as many as you can. Enjoy your time at college as a journey and not only a goal to be attained. 

Paul Cody,Ph.D