Leaving the Bubble: Coming Out All Over Again in College

May 1, 2010 | 2010 Spring - The (First) Youth Issue, Articles

By Liza A.

Sometime between my freshman and junior years of high school, almost all of my close friends came out as bi, trans, gay, or lesbian. Our few straight friends watched in disbelief as we came out one by one, wondering how we had all ended up in the same social group. We laughed and joked that “all our friends are gay,” but I know many of us appreciated having a safe environment where we could talk openly about both girls and boys, as well as issues like coming out and discrimination. My friends understood me, and we became each other’s support group.

When we graduated last June, our bubble popped. Luckily, I ended up at a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania where the phrase “don’t be so heteronormative” is tossed around so often that it almost sounds cliché. I promised myself that I wouldn’t hide my sexuality in college, yet it was kind of a shock for me all of a sudden to be surrounded by so many straight people, away from my safety net of understanding friends. I realized that entering a completely new community automatically put me back in the closet, so I found myself pretending to be straight, just because it was so much easier than having to come out to different people over and over again. I awkwardly avoided the topic of dating, and when asked what TV shows I watched, I deliberately omitted two of my favorites: The L Word and South of Nowhere.

It didn’t help that a few weeks into classes, we had an event called “Screw Your Roommate,” where freshmen set their roommates or suitemates up on a blind date. No one ever asked me if I might want to be set up with a girl. The assumption was just made that everyone wanted to be set up with someone of the opposite gender, leaving LGBT students to bring up the issue themselves, or if they weren’t comfortable coming out yet, to remain silent and accept their match. I didn’t say anything, and since I like both boys and girls, it was fine with me when I got set up with a guy on the rugby team.

The guilt of pretending I was straight ate at me constantly. One night I was talking to some friends, and I accidentally referenced The L Word in conversation. Realizing what I’d said, I rushed to add that I’d only seen it because I had a friend who’s a lesbian. I mentally beat myself up about making the excuse, telling myself that I was being ridiculous and had no reason to keep hiding, especially after I’d promised myself that I would do just the opposite in college. I couldn’t sleep that night. After tossing and turning, I got out of bed and drafted a private note on Facebook to all of my closest friends at school, explaining that I was bi and that I felt silly for making it seem otherwise. Although it was tempting to put off sending the note, I knew it was now or never. I pressed send.

I got back into bed anxious and shaking, but I also felt relieved. Over the next few days I received quite a few responses. Each one was positive, letting me know that people really respected me for what I did, and that they were glad I felt comfortable sharing with them. I started attending meetings of my college’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance as well as the Queer Discussion Group, and I feel that I’m in a good place now in terms of being out to friends and having resources for support. At the same time though, I know that I’ll have to keep going through similar processes in the future, coming out to new people as I enter new communities and make new friends going forward.

Liza is a college freshman who loves music, photography, traveling, and hanging out with friends.

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