Navigating WFU as an LGBTQ student

Navigating+WFU+as+an+LGBTQ+student

leilanifletch

Welcome to Wake Forest! This year you will make friends, discover passions, explore a new environment and grow in ways that you never imagined. The first-year experience is always unique, but for queer students, it comes with a lot more complexities due to Wake Forest’s very straight student body. This transition can be uncomfortable, especially if you come from a big city like I did. As I reflect on my experiences as a queer student, I offer you some advice about the importance of finding your community.

As a New York native, my adjustment to Winston-Salem was interesting to say the least. As a Black and Latinx woman, I was accustomed to navigating predominately white spaces, but the overwhelming heteronormativity shocked me. I felt out of place when I stepped onto Wake Forest’s campus, constantly suffocated by my own thoughts; stressing about where I would “fit in.” I desired to find a community where I could live unapologetically.

 Although anxiety stayed at the forefront of my mind, it was vital for me to be my authentic self. If that meant facing some rejection, that was okay, because I knew I would be found by the people who were supposed to be in my life. This courageous choice helped me learn valuable lessons on campus and meet those who I would later call my closest friends. 

I found most of these people at the LGBTQ+ Center; it was a space where I truly felt affirmed. Every time I entered this space, I would always feel a sense of ease; the pressure to perform as a “straighter” version of myself would leave. 

I encourage you to explore the LGBTQ+ Center and browse their resources as soon as you get settled on campus. They have countless of initiatives that support queer students, my favorite being the identity spaces. The staff support from the Center is also phenomenal. AJ Mazaris and Kayla Lisenby-Denson, the director and assistant director, or the parents of the Center as I’d like to say, are incredible. They go above and beyond to support queer students no matter the situation.

All that being said, there is no singular place for queer students on campus. The most important thing is to find the best supportive and uplifting community for you, and only you can determine that. As I conclude, I want to leave you with my biggest pieces of advice: 

  1. At this point I probably sound like a broken record, but find a community where you feel safe and affirmed. The small queer community at Wake Forest makes it easy to feel isolated, so finding your “home” is really important. 
  2. Talk to queer upperclassmen. We want to help you find your way! It can be scary going into this new environment thinking that you must have everything figured out when honestly, no one truly does.
  3. Try going to the LGBTQ+ Center. It might be nerve wracking entering this space (possibly virtually), but pushing yourself can help in the long run. 
  4. Trust that it’ll all work out and if you need someone to talk to, find me! I know how hard and overwhelming it can be coming onto Wake Forest’s campus as a queer student, so I’m always here to listen. My instagram is @lf710 and my email is in the byline. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

Overall, your adjustment to Wake Forest will be a continuous process every time you step back on campus, but the support from your affirming community will help you through it. Never undermine your resilience.