Gender and Sexual Identity
As you begin to find support on campus by accessing the resources available to you, you can also be a source of support for someone else. Each individual experiences a process of reflection and discovering personal identity during college. In the process, you and others may begin to learn more about yourselves and some may even realize that you are attracted to the same sex. Sexuality and gender identity are critical aspects to each of our personal identity.
Am I Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, or Questioning?
To question and become aware of your sexual identity is no easy task. There
are times that this process with be exciting, frightening, and many times both. One
thing to remember is that many people went through/and or still going through this
same process. Know that being honest about your sexual and/or gender identity is a
major step to living as an authentic person.
For students who are struggling with sexual identity, there is usually a lot of anxiety around the phrase “coming out”. However, there are different types and levels of coming out. You might find yourself comfortable with one level of coming out, while someone else might be at another. No two people are identical in this process. It is important to take your time, be patient not only with the people around you, but with yourself. Many
people do not realize that someone realizing the LGB identity is not only a coming out to
self but also about overcoming negative values and beliefs relating to same sex attraction or gender identity issues, and overcoming the fear of how other people will react to this information.
Coming Out to Other Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual (LGB) People
Often, after reflecting and discovering your personal identity, many people decide
to come out to others. It is usually suggested to first come out to people that are
most likely to be supportive. These people will become your network of support
during the duration of your coming out process. Other LGB people can serve as an empathetic and stable support. Coming out is something that each individual has to do at their own pace. There is no need to rush this process. You are becoming a member of the LGB community does not mean you have to conform to a particular way of being.
The point of coming out is to live openly and honestly and integrating your sexual
orientation/gender identity with all of the other wonderful aspects of your person.
Coming Out to Heterosexuals
Do not disregard your heterosexual peers as a means of support. Many people
that do not identify as LGB can be someone who walks with you during your
journey. However, you may have a large amount of anxiety around coming out to
your heterosexual peers. It will help you to understand that some of your heterosexual peers will be:
- Initially shocked or confused
- May need some time to adjust to you identifying as LGB
- Some of these people may reject you initially, but may come around in their
- Some of these people will surprise you with their overwhelming love and
It is important to recognize that coming out publicly may not be right for
everyone. Everyone has different needs to meet and obstacles to overcome. It is
important to not judge someone on their decision to or to not come out. Some
people may decide to be fully out, while others keep their personal and professional
lives separate. It is important to find a place where you are fulfilled and being
authentic to yourself.
Coming out can become a more positive experience when you are secure in your
identity and how you want to live your life as a LGB person. Take the necessary
time to think about your identity and what steps are right for you. Think about
the different scenarios that could come up during your coming out journey. It is
important that you are secure in your identity and less likely to be influenced by the
opinions of other. Be knowledgeable about university policies that protect and support LGB students, know about university services for LGB students, and speak with a counselor at CAPS about the coming out process.
Supporting Transgender Individuals
For transgender individuals, gender identity issues can be equally as complicated as a lesbian or gay man’s experience with coming out because of a broader lack of understanding about transexuality. While confronting issues about sexuality may be a part of the process of exploring gender identity for transexual individuals, sexual behaviors and sexuality does not necessarily relate to a person’s gender identity. Transgender people have varied sexualities including being heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, and gay. Gender identity relates to a person’s sense of identity as a male or female, not their sexual practice.