Advice and experiences from LGBTQ students at Ohio State.
If you’re an underclassman, upperclassmen are the best people to go to for advice on campus. They have recent and relevant wisdom that can be passed on to those just beginning their college journeys. This month, we decided to ask some LGBTQ upperclassmen–Grace Quigley, Natalie Garrett, Luke Lauterjung, Michael Johnson, Jajuan Hopkins, and Terry Wheeler–for advice they would give to incoming LGBTQ freshmen or sophomores still looking to find their place. Their advice shows that things truly do get better, and that Ohio State is an inclusive place to find community. Here are their takes on how to appreciate being your unapologetically queer self.
Come out on your own terms.
Everyone’s “coming out” story is different, there’s no one-way to do it. Some people were forced to come out before they believed they were really ready to be, while others were able to come up with a time, a place, and a script for themselves. Garret recognizes, “There’s so much more at stake with your family. Friends come and go, and if a friend was to not be ok with it, it would suck, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. It took me until my junior year of college to finally come out to my family, and that was just my immediate family. I have a lot of friends who are very out with their friends and everyone at school, but are still not out to their families.”
Surround yourself with supportive people.
Wheeler never looked for the LGBTQ community at Ohio State, but found one anyways. They shared, “I ended up just being with a group of largely LGBTQ people because we all tend to want to be around each other,” after trying to find the LGBTQ community at OSU at first. Johnson focuses on being in a comfortable group, as he says “You surround yourself in an environment you enjoy and all the the friends follow secondary, and some of them just happen to be LGBTQ+. Do what you like, queer kids are everywhere.” Eventually, everyone finds their OSU family.
Pride is defined by you.
Each interviewee we talked to had a different interpretation of pride, though they all had similar themes in their answers. Quigley, who is newer to the concept of pride, says that “What pride means to me is acceptance, validation, and representation.” Johnson expands with his meaning and says that “It’s taken me forever to get to this point, but ‘pride’ means feeling ok with who I am. Growing up in a traditional town and being surrounded by others (and my own) internalized homophobia has taken a huge toll on my personal progress as a valid human being. I am who I am and love is love.” Pride has the power to bring everyone together, and be unapologetic in who you are even if who you are is different to the LGBTQ person to your left. In Hopkins’ warm words, “It’s all about being a beacon to show others like you that ‘We’re here and we are not ashamed of that’.”
Fly whatever pride flag resonates with you.
Everyone knows the bright hues of the classic rainbow pride flag, but you may not know that all parts of the LGBTQ community have their own flags and corresponding colors, too. Our interviewees find identity in the ones that represent them the most. Wheeler says the flags they most identify with are “the bisexual flag and the non-binary flag,” while Garrett’s are “the gay flag and the queer flag”. LGBTQ flags don’t all only consist of gender and sexuality-based parts of your identity, as Hopkins explains, the flags he most identifies with are the pansexual flag and Philadelphia’s pride flag, which “includes a brown and black stripe, to show that we are a diverse community and to speak up against racism in our community.” Show off your pride by displaying the flags you feel represent you best, and don’t forget to wear their colors, too!
Get involved at Ohio State.
Most of our interviewees stressed the importance of getting involved at OSU with student organizations or through other LGBTQ events taking place on campus. “I am a member of Off the Lake Productions. As a gay theatre nerd, I found my Buckeye family with OTL,” Lauterjung says. “OTL has been my place at Ohio State to meet other queer people and every meeting and rehearsal is an inclusive and collaborative space!” Pride OSU and Shades were two other great organizations for LGBTQ students to get involved with mentioned by Wheeler. Garrett advises you to be actively looking for community every year: “Honestly at the Involvement Fair just find every gay looking table you can find and sign up. Even if you don’t end up going to the meetings, being on their email list will give you access to information regarding other LGBTQ+ events on campus. Additionally, getting a job on campus can be a great way to make friends, and odds are there will be another queer person working with you.”
Living a double life will get tiring.
Being closeted at home and out at OSU brings many difficulties for LGBTQ students, as being yourself in one space and not in another is never comfortable. Garrett speaks from experience. “A lot of the times I found that I would forget that I wasn’t actually out at home, and I would only remember when someone said something about me getting a boyfriend and I would look at them like they had a third eye, and then remember.” Quigley also struggled. “It made being home feel fake, or like I was not being myself in any way…I never really learned to balance keeping up those two images, which was one of the main reasons why I ended up coming out. The struggle and pull I felt from those two images of myself was too much to simply deal with.” You should be able to be yourself around everyone; it lifts a huge weight off of your shoulders. But we know not everyone has that option, so heed Hopkins’ advice: “If you feel the want or need to think about coming out at home, maybe test the waters through showing support as an ally first.”