Coming out not as easy as I thought

There are several gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups on campus.

Monday is National Coming Out Day. The first National Coming Out Day was held on Oct. 11, 1988. This date was chosen for the annual event in commemoration of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

So I thought it would be appropriate to share a few of my thoughts on coming out, and how I associate them to the University community.

The last two summers I have been fortunate enough to attend the National Education Association Representative Assembly as a student delegate for Minnesota.

Approximately 75 students are chosen nationwide to attend the 9,000-10,000 member conference. Last year, I met a student who I thought might be gay. He was a senior at the University of WisconsinñEau Claire and I was a sophomore at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College at the time.

We had the chance to sit together on a long bus ride. I threw out hints about me and my partner and our happy life together, thinking that might be his open door to disclose his own sexuality.

He didn’t, and that was that.

At this year’s conference in Washington I ran into Jeff again, this time at a gay bar.

He looked very uncomfortable and nervous, especially after I saw him and went over to say hello. I didn’t ask about him being in a gay bar, but I asked about his schooling and his prospects of finding a teaching job after graduation.

He told me that he had temporarily given up on finding a teaching job and was working at a credit union. He had moved back home to La Crosse, Wis., with his parents.

And that was that.

Upon returning home, I searched the Internet for Jeff and I e-mailed him a supportive note.

A few weeks later, he replied, confirming that he is gay, but not a soul in his life knew about it, except for me.

Not his family, not his college friends, no one.

He said he couldn’t deal with it right now, and I still haven’t gotten an answer as to why not.

For me, I came out when I was 19 years old, on active duty in the Marine Corps, and stationed in Albany, Ga.

Albany is one of the most segregated and hateful places left in this country, and I like to refer to it as the butthole of the South.

After meeting Jeff, I wonder why it was so easy for me to come out under the circumstances I did, and why it is still so hard for some college students to do the same, especially when college students seem more liberal, cool and open-minded than environments such as that of Albany.

I am now 30, and a junior in my first semester at the University. Maybe some people don’t realize the available resources.

There are several gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender supportive groups on campus, but in such a large school with so many groups, I think all of them struggle for their two seconds of visibility and attention.

No wonder it’s so easy to stay hiding in the closet.

So if you think you might be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, or have some questions or curiosities, but might be afraid to walk into the Queer Student Cultural Center on the second floor of Coffman Union, or local support groups such as the District 202 Youth Center aren’t accessible, then e-mail me. We’ll talk.

No human being should have to live in fear and seclusion as Jeff in La Crosse. No one.

Adam Keim is a University student and welcomes comments at [email protected].