Student’s life changes during National Coming Out Week

Anne Preller

Joshua Llewellyn finally admitted a truth he hadn’t thought about until this year.

“I am gay,” he said for the first time Tuesday at an Arch meeting – a support group for students coming out.

At the Queer Student Cultural Center, Llewellyn, a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts, repeated his new revelation to “congratulations” and “we’re proud of you” from members of the center.

“I realized it not too long ago, but it wasn’t something I’ve really known for a long time,” he said. “I’ve always felt weird. It’s not something that feels right in an overly heterosexual world.”

Earlier this fall, Llewellyn rushed Delta Lambda Phi, the fraternity created by gay men for all gay men.

“I spent most of the last few weeks thinking maybe I should go to the QSCC,” Llewellyn said.

So he began spending time at the center, browsing through the library and getting to know other students.

Llewellyn called himself “queer by association” through his participation at the QSCC.

“They just assume you’re gay because you’re at their meetings,” he said.

Llewellyn doesn’t believe he repressed his feelings growing up, he said he just didn’t take the time to think seriously about the possibility.

“I think there have been moments that I felt it, but I’ve always just moved on,” Llewellyn said.

Describing himself as a “shy, late-blooming outsider” who in high school lived on the fringe of suburban culture, Llewellyn said he just always considered himself different.

“How you grow up is how you learn to deal with those feelings, expressing them or keeping them bottled up,” Llewellyn said.

Step two of his coming out process was informing his family and friends, face to face.

Llewellyn didn’t know when or how he planned to tell his parents at first.

“I think I’m going to have them write my tuition check first,” he said. “I haven’t really been that close with my family for quite a few years.”

Llewellyn called his relationship with his younger sister Jenni diplomatic. He said he hoped revealing his sexuality to his parents would bring them closer and that they would accept this part of him.

After reading about the stages of acceptance parents often go through when they learn their child is gay, Llewellyn had an idea of how they would take it.

“My parents will probably go through these stages, but I’ll be there, sitting there saying `I’m right here, I still love you, I still care about you, but I’m gay,'” he said.

Llewellyn doesn’t actually have a plan about coming out to his friends, but said he has prepared himself for a negative reaction from the people in his life.

“I’m not really sure who that will be, but that will be interesting to see,” he said.

If his friends choose not to support him, Llewellyn said he has found community at the QSCC.

“It can be hard to find people to talk to and do stuff with if you are kind of this off-the-wall character,” he said. “I’m really becoming more of an outgoing person after coming to the QSCC.”

Llewellyn said he has learned the most about himself by talking to people.

“I think the people who took the time to talk to the weird, shy guy won’t be surprised that I am gay,” he said.

“I think everything changes in your life,” Llewellyn said. “This will probably be a much larger change.”

On National Coming Out Day on Thursday, Llewellyn made his public statement and walked through the purple door on the West Bank Plaza during the QSCC National Coming Out Day rally.

That morning Llewellyn informed his family he is gay.

“My mom told me she loved me and put on one of the rainbow ribbons, and my dad said, `Don’t get into any trouble,'” Llewellyn said.

After walking through the door, Llewellyn said he is ready to get back to normal life, although he has not told his friends yet.

“I haven’t had anything bad happen yet,” Llewellyn said. “But so far everything has been great.”

QSCC has sponsored the National Coming Out Day rally for more than five years in an effort to get Llewellyn and others to feel comfortable and open with their decision.

“People need to know the GLBT community is here,” said Lucy Faurot, co-chairwoman of the QSCC.

Faurot said campus attitude toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can be hostile, but “the administration is really open” despite hints of homophobia on campus.

Brian Wiedenmeier, QSCC co-chairman, said walking through the door is “a really important step to make.”

Non-participating students watched the event from the tables on the plaza.

“People are gay, lesbian or transgender, that’s something that’s part of their life,” said freshman James Alexander. “They can do their own thing.”