GSA provides a safe space for coming out

by Caitlin Flood, Julia Mendes and Marissa Visci
   Uncertainty. Relief. Rejection. Acceptance. Fear. Pride. All of these words have been used to describe coming out, the decision to disclose the nature of one’s sexuality. Coming out is a major step, and gay students describe a variety of motives, emotions and reactions when coming to this decision.
   “I wanted to meet people who are like me,” said junior Tyler Merriman of his decision to come out the summer before his sophomore year. Merriman’s announcement was met with a variety of reactions, from acceptance to tolerance to rejection. “I lost best friends because of it,” he said.
Looking for support, Merriman turned to the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), a club that adviser Elizabeth Coleman calls “a safe space” for students of any sexuality to show their support for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community.
Club members promote and raise awareness of LGBT rights with public events like the Day of Silence. However, in the private, close-knit environment of meetings, students can share personal feelings without fear of disapproval.
“We create a place where people can come and not be judged for who they are,” said junior Shannon Healy.
In GSA, Merriman found acceptance and gained confidence; now, as one of the club’s co-presidents, he uses his experience to help others who are struggling.
Another GSA co-president, senior Cassi Segulin, grappled with determining her own sexuality after middle school. Though Segulin initially came out to only a few friends, the news that she is bisexual circulated quickly around the school.
“I was just horrified, because usually I’m a pretty careful and cautious person,” she said. “But then [those who knew] would say ‘Hey, it’s okay,’ and from then on I’ve felt more comfortable discussing it around different people.” For Segulin, the experience was “so relieving and so freeing…. I’ve become more comfortable with who I am,” she said.
Not all students have found the acceptance that Segulin has. Junior John Brown* felt “terrified, scared and unsure” about coming out. At times, the verbal abuse and cyber-bullying he endured made Brown feel “like trash.” The situation became so severe that Brown even stayed home from school for three days.
“A bully actually came to my mom’s workplace because he knew he would find me there,” said Brown. “He was waiting for me.”
Brown felt unsafe and paranoid, often worrying that he was being followed. “That feeling never went away,” he said, acknowledging that he regrets his decision to come out.
Senior Dylan Takats described his decision to come out as a weight being lifted off his shoulders. “I chose to come out because I love who I am. I always tell people how it is and I try to be honest with everything,” he said.
Takats has advice for students considering coming out. “Honestly, be yourself,” he said. “If some people don’t accept you, then they aren’t true friends and they don’t deserve you if they can’t love you for who you are.”
“If [a person] had the luxury to come out as any sexual orientation and everyone would be okay with it, the world would be a better place,” said freshman Alex Walejewsky.