Derik Cowan

December 1998

Q: I'm fairly out on campus, and I'm afraid that I may end up getting gay-bashed. What can I do to make myself feel less afraid?

A: Well, this is a good question, but I don't know that my answer will be all that encouraging. My first advice in this situation is to not ignore your fear. All too often we put lots of effort into overcoming fears only to find out that they had some legitimacy. Remember: fear is a natural instinct that we encounter in any dangerous situation, and it doesn't matter whether you live in the middle of nowhere or the middle of the Castro, we all face hate for our differences. If you feel like you may be the target of an anti-gay attack, protect yourself. Don't go out alone, go out with friends, and take a self defense course if you can. Remember -- the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to learn to protect yourself.

That said, remember that anti-gay hatred is not something you can avoid simply by staying in the closet. I've heard story after story of gay youth who were persecuted by their peers immensely while in the closet but after they came out found that their persecution ended or decreased. Coming out is a self affirming act. It's akin to saying, "So you think I'm a pervert. I think I'm perfectly fine the way I am." Most people who would torment you for being gay can't deal with people who are proud of who they are and who they love, and it can serve as a powerful barrier between you and those who hate you.

Also remember that as an out gay person, you are a role model for those who have not taken the step out of the closet. You have an effect on others. When people who have not come out see you and how proud you are to be gay, they begin to feel good about themselves and their lives and may in turn come out. And the more of us who come out, the more of us who are there to fight against the hate that threatens us. Never forget the good you can do by being out, even as you protect yourself from that bad that may come as a result of your being out.

As an unrelated conclusion to this article, I want to ask for information that anyone reading this can give on gay related awards/grants/scholarships that are available either through community groups or colleges for gay and lesbian students. I'm putting together a homepage of this information that will hopefully appear online fir the new year. I will be sure to post the URL for that here.


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