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Davis, California

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Column: LGBT stigma

History reveals that there has always been a stigma attached to alternative sexualities. Our current fight for marriage equality is a far cry from the days when homosexuality was classified as a psychological disorder in the 1973 edition of DSM-IV, or from when police raided gay bars looking to arrest anyone engaging in homosexual conduct.

A December 2010 study from University of Illinois at Chicago stated that LGBT youth are 70 percent more likely to feel depressed and suffer self-esteem issues than non-LGBT youth. For those who don’t come out until college or middle adulthood, high school can be a bittersweet experience.

I’d known I was gay since I was about 12, but after a bad experience with a friend who did not react well to my disclosure, I became discouraged from telling more people.

Though a few friends knew I was questioning, I largely pushed aside any thoughts I had of being fully gay, knowing this would mean I’d be forced to adopt it as an identity. It didn’t help that I went to a high school where, despite its façade of liberalism and all-inclusiveness, guys in the hallways liberally tossed around the word “fag.” I even once heard a girl in the library whisper to her friends: “Lesbians scare me.”

Comments like these definitely didn’t help me feel more comfortable with my sexuality. I also lived in a bubble and figured that because long-haired, feminine gay women seemed virtually non-existent in the media, I therefore couldn’t be gay. Convinced of this, I attributed my feelings to a passing awkward phase, much like braces had been for me in early adolescence.

I pushed the feelings aside my junior year of high school the entire three months I dated my boyfriend. I pushed them aside when I ate lunch with girls and talk inevitably turned to their desired qualities in men. I pushed them aside until I became sick of censoring myself. Two weeks before high school graduation, I came out to my parents – who took it well.

After coming out officially, I became a lot happier. I started volunteering at the LGBT Resource Center on campus my second year, and this past summer I landed an internship at Curve Magazine which enabled me the opportunity to march in my first San Francisco gay pride parade next to the publication’s colorful, balloon-adorned float.

My friend Rodrigo Sandoval, also a junior, has had a similar experience. He was not out in high school but since coming out last September, he has involved himself more with Davis’ gay community; attending Queer Student Union meetings with me and rushing the gay-interest fraternity Delta Lambda Phi.

“In high school, I definitely knew I was gay, but I was in denial,” Sandoval said. “I tried to convince myself to like girls, which is why I dated some throughout the years.”

I, too, dated guys in high school, but looking back, most of the guys I crushed on had had effeminate features. As we grew older, my sister was drawn to “manly men,” whereas I found myself fawning over boys like Aaron Carter. Chances are that if Justin Bieber had been big when I was 12, I would’ve had a fat crush on him.

Though I was lucky that my mom and dad were accepting, I know that others don’t have it so easy. Depending on a family’s religion or upbringing, being gay may not be accepted or discussed at home. My friend David Gonzales, a senior who recently came out to his family, said his parents are still coming to terms.

“My grandmother thinks I just haven’t met the right girl yet,” Gonzales said. “My grandfather thinks I’m possessed by a demon. My father blamed himself and claimed that he failed me. My mother just cried and refuses to talk about it.”

For those of you who identify as LGBT and have not taken steps to familiarize yourself with the community, there are numerous resources available on campus.

Queer Student Union meets every Thursday. In addition, every Friday the LGBTRC holds popcorn movie from noon to 2 p.m. and crafternoons from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

There are also courses to take here at Davis that provide a wide range of information and insight about LGBT history.

Gregory Herek teaches Psychology 158: Sexual Orientation and Prejudice every winter quarter. I had the fortune of taking this class at around the same time I became involved with the queer community. Herek teaches about the history of the Stonewall riots, Harvey Milk’s influence and anti-gay campaigns put on by radicals such as Anita Bryant.

Years ago, such classes were scarcely offered on campuses.

Even though we’ve come a long way since the days we were diagnosed as psychologically malfunctioned, it’s saddening to me that many youth still face discomfort in coming to terms with their orientation.

To those who identify as LGBT, you’ve probably heard this before, but I think the most effective way to advance our “movement” is to put a face to the word gay. Whether or not you’re political, getting in touch with your community will increase visibility while building solidarity and expanding people’s notion of “what a gay looks like.” This ultimately helps to dismantle stereotypes, the root of most prejudices.

Even if you’re not ready to come out, explore the options available on campus; some of them are completely confidential. College is a welcoming place for LGBTs, as I’ve been happy to discover.

ELENI STEPHANIDES is a proud member of QSU and is excited to attend Western Regionals in Berkeley this weekend! Wondering what that is? E-mail her at estephanides@ucdavis.edu.


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