Straight support makes all the difference in the world
Many straight students often wonder how they can help support other GLBT students and friends. The answer is quite simple: offer your unconditional support. However, many GLBT students automatically assume that they will lose their friends and support network once they come out of the closet. This couldn’t be further from the truth. For many GLBT students, their network of support will actually expand.
I know what it is like to live in fear of losing your friends. That is the exact reason why I chose to stay in the closet during my college years. Looking back, I know that I could have made things a lot easier on myself if I had just reached out to my friends, instead. They often tell me that they were waiting for me to make the first move, and that they would have been there for me every step of the way. That is why it is important for straight students to vocalize their support. Had I known that my friends wouldn’t have cared about my sexual orientation, and would have been there to help me through it, then I would have gladly confided in them.
If you are a straight student who has a close GLBT friend or know someone who may be struggling with his or her sexuality, the following tips will help guide you on how to offer positive support so that you can work through the stress together.
• Vocalize your support. If you have a close GLBT friend who is still in the closet and doesn’t feel comfortable talking about his or her sexuality just yet, you can offer your support without making them feel uncomfortable. Simply tell them that you will be there for them no matter what, and if they ever need to talk to you then you will be there to listen without judgment. You can even generalize this by saying something like, “I know you are struggling with something. Whatever it is, I can help you through it. Whether it’s stress, a relationship, sexuality or anything. I’m here for you.” This will take the fear of losing your friendship right out of the equation, and your friend will be more willing to open up to you and lean on your shoulder.
• Join your college GSA group. If you would like to offer your support to GLBT students, you can join a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) group on your college campus. If there isn’t one available, then you can be the first to organize one and set a precedent of positive support and community at your school. GSA groups are a great way to interact with students of diverse backgrounds, which helps breakdown needless stereotypes and strengthens networks of support.
• Pay attention. If you notice that a GLBT student is having difficulty at school, whether struggling with grades or exhibiting addictive tendencies, pay attention. It may be that they are acting out simply because they are not ready to ask for help. Bring up the issue in conversation and let them know that there are other, more positive ways for dealing with their personal issues.
• Educate yourself. The most important thing that you can do as a straight student in supporting GLBT students is to educate yourself as much as possible on GLBT issues. Find out why certain stereotypes exist, learn about GLBT history, and familiarize yourself with the current real world issues that GLBT individuals face on a regular basis. True compassion for another person of a different race, culture or sexual orientation always begins with education.
~ Lyndsey D’Arcangelo, GLBT Stress Expert, Campus Calm