You are sitting in your parents house, sweat dripping down your forehead wondering how your parents will react when you tell them you're gay.
What should I tell them? How will they react? Will my family and friends still accept me?
Students who are coming out are faced with a variety of questions such as when do I come out, to whom, where can I find support and how sure do I need to be? Shiraz Tata from the NIU Counseling and Student Development Center said there are a number of things a student should do before coming out.
"We see students who are in all states of the coming out experience," she said. "They come for lots of problems."
Tata said the most helpful question the counseling center asks is "what are the costs and benefits?" Students need to examine all possibilities of what can happen when they come out to parents, friends and the community, she said.
The counseling center helps students who are coming out by listening to them in all stages. Then the center helps students sort through their feelings, go through a process of self-reflection and continue with a process of preparation.
"Coming out is a very sensitive issue and it is a gradual change," Tata said.
Tata said students who are "coming out" should have confidence in themselves and their sexuality before confronting their parents and friends.
Tata said before telling anyone about their sexuality, coming-out students should first "come to terms with themselves."
Tata said it is important for everybody to examine their sexuality. "It is a natural part of the process," she said.
According to a handout provided by the counseling center, homosexuals who are coming out go through six stages. This begins with confusion of sexuality and ending with the integrating the homosexual part of their life with other aspects of their life such as school and relationships.
Also, a number of books are offered on homosexuality for students who are considering coming out. Tata recommended "Coming Out: An Act of Love" by Rob Eichberg, PH.D.
One person speaks about his coming out trials
By Carrie Schulmeister
At the age of 12, Geoffrey Nuneman knew he was attracted to men. But he never knew he was gay because he was not familiar with the concept.
Nuneman, now president of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Coalition at NIU, has overcome the fear of admitting his homosexuality -- a fear many students are faced with.
Nuneman said he never attended dances and social activities in high school because they were very uncomfortable for him. He also lost many of his friends and became "inactive in society," he said.
By the time he was 16 he had already tried to commit suicide because of the confusion and fear he was experiencing.
A counselor helped him through his depression and confront his feelings. Without his consent, Nuneman's counselor told his parents he was attracted to his same sex.
After finding out about his homosexuality, his parents were very supportive but did not talk much about other issues, such as holding hands with his boyfriend while walking down the street.
Coming out of the closet is a continual process dealing with everyday situations facing a homosexual and his or her family, he said.
"It is not just like one big step out of the closet," Nuneman said. He said his parents accepted it without thinking about the complicated mental process involved.
After high school, Nuneman went to community college and then came to NIU in hope of a larger diversity and acceptance of homosexuals. Now 22, he is dating someone for the first time.
When he moved into Lincoln Hall, he was confronted with other residents on the all-male floor tormenting him.
"It was a very uncomfortable situation," Nuneman said.
The first person on his floor that Nuneman told he was gay was also a homosexual. Nuneman said this made his situation easier to deal with knowing he was not alone.
Things took a turn for the better after Nuneman became involved with the LGBC. Nuneman said the organization helped him to "self-identify" and find out who he was. He also learned the lesbian, gay and bisexual community was "becoming a solid culture."
Nuneman said NIU will offer a Lesbian Literature course next semester and a possibility exists for a major or minor in gay and lesbian studies.
The homophobic community we are used to "is getting better," although there is still discrimination. Nuneman said he "never had to deal with a lot of discrimination," but he still has to be discreet about his sexuality.
Since Nuneman, a management major with a emphasis in human resources, is graduating this May, he has interviewed with many large companies. He said the main message he received about his resume is not to include his work in the LGBC because it suggested a possibility of stirring up controversy or discrimination in selecting employees.
"Most people think with my major in management that I would be a manager of a floral boutique," Nuneman said.
Also, Nuneman still faces problems in his family life because his parents do not want his 13-year-old sister to deal with her brother being gay at such a sensitive time.
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