Congrats! You’re a part of the LGBTQ+ community and you just moved to the American South, a region infamous for its persevering hostile political climate towards LGBTQ+ residents (after all, HB 2, the “Bathroom Bill’’ that captured national attention in 2016, was born right here in North Carolina).
Despite the progress that LGBTQ+ activists have made in affecting political and social change over the past few years, you may still be nervous. I know I was.
Luckily, you didn’t move just anywhere in the South. You moved to Wake Forest.
I’m not here to tell you that every single person here will be accepting — the first rule of journalism is to seek and report only the truth. And yet, throughout my freshman year, I was pleasantly surprised by the open-mindedness and support offered by staff and students alike here.
Without a doubt, the first resource you should know about is the LGBTQ+ center, located on the third floor of Benson right next to the Women’s Center. Walking in, the environment is immediately inviting — colorful couches fill a common area where students can come to unwind, study, chat and share experiences.
“The role of the center is to provide advocacy and support for students, and that can happen in different ways,” Assistant Director Nayasia Coleman said. “It can happen by organizing social programming for LGBTQ students, connecting freshmen with supportive faculty or other students who may be having similar experiences and just generally by providing visibility of the community on campus.”
“The role of the Center is to provide advocacy and support for students, and that can happen in different ways,” Nayasia Coleman said. “It can be by organizing social programming for LGBTQ students, connecting freshmen with supportive faculty or other students who may be having similar experiences and just generally by providing visibility if the community on campus.”
The center hosts “identity spaces’’ for LGBTQ+ and allied students. For example, Lavender Menace is an event dedicated toward students who identify as sapphic, QTPOC Connections is a space for LGBTQ+ students of color to find community and T-Time is geared towards Wake’s transgender and non-binary population. The LGBTQ+ Center also has programming geared specifically toward first-year students.
“I met a lot of people through Queer First year and Lavender Menace at the LGBTQ+ Center…I would advise freshmen to try to meet as many people as possible by joining clubs, going to university-sponsored events and testing new waters,” sophomore Addison Schmidt said. “The more people you meet, the more likely it is that you will find your people, whether they be allies or other queer people.”
All of this and more are available on the Wake Forest website, but, although these events are helpful tools to foster community, not everyone who identifies with these terms will attend. If you’re interested in getting to know queer people outside of these spaces, swallow your pride and download Tinder or a similar dating app. Do it.
With explicit app prompts about sexual orientation, every gay person you see there is out and proud, at least while on campus. I first met my (completely platonic!) best friend there during the first month of school. Engaging with these sites does not have to lead to a romantic relationship, but it is a convenient way to see that you’re not alone here. Because you’re not.
Starting freshman year away from home can be daunting, but it is also a brand-new start in which you can live 100% authentically and experience unmatched freedom for self-exploration. Away from any prior constrictions, college is the perfect time to become acquainted with people who will love you regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and to connect with resources that will ease this transition as you settle in.
Upon request, the LGBTQ+ Center sends out “welcome packages” that include little gifts such as stickers, t-shirts and identity flags. My fun-sized pink, purple and blue flag that I received from them went on my desk the first day of my freshman year, and it will be up in my sophomore dorm as well. Because here, I feel comfortable being me. And I hope you will, too.