Coming out as an LGBTQ+ kid in Indiana is usually nerve-wracking at best and dangerous at worst. And navigating how to come out to your roommate-- a stranger who you're stuck with for a year-- can be especially stressful.
I know. I've been there. So here's a short guide of things to consider when coming out to the roomie.
First and foremost, priority numero uno, is your safety. If you are worried that coming out might affect your mental, emotional, or physical safety, then please don't. Assess what you know about your roomie; if they have a Leviticus 20:13 poster hanging on the wall...better not. By my very scientific estimate, 99.999% of people will be totally chill. But you ever feel unsafe, talk to your RA or CUE ASAP (acronym city over here). They can help figure things out with mediation, outside resources, pointing out safer, gender-neutral bathrooms and floors, advice, and even shifting roommates if necessary.
Now that we've gotten all the stressful things out of the way, we focus on the good stuff.
Know that if you don't want to come out to your roomie, or don't feel it's relevant, you don't have to. Your sexuality and gender is yours and yours alone. You owe others no (zero, zilch, nada, goose egg) explanation.
I talked to a lot of LGBTQ students and asked their roomie-coming-out stories. Every. Single. One. was 100% positive and were really glad they came out. Sometimes they said it took their roommate a whopping 30 sec-15 min to adjust to the idea of living with someone of different gender or sexual orientation. I talked to Doug Bauder, director of the GLBT Student Support Services, and he said that in his many years at IU, "the stories I've heard about coming out in the residence halls have been overwhelmingly positive." For example, at last year's first IU GSA meeting, a freshman arrived with half his floor in tow because they wanted to show their support of their floormate.
Tons of people I talked to noted that they grew really close to their roomie after coming out. Chris Hooten, Forest RA and all-around cool person, points out that coming out can "ensure that both parties understand each other a little better and don't feel alienated, uncomfortable, or surprised." Being open with your roomie about something as personal as sexual orientation or gender identity sends them the message that you trust them. It also means you won't have to always introduce your girlfriend as your "very (very very) close friend" or always wear socks to hide painted toes from your "all-male" floor.
Coming out is always something that happens on a case-by-case, personal basis. If you're a happily flaming queer, it's probably best to surprise your roomie with a karaoke rendition of "Born This Way" complete with dance moves and confetti. Jk. After that post-coming-out wave of relief, don't forget to address logistics. You might want to discuss things such as overnight partners, changing, the just-because-I-kiss-girls-doesn't-mean-I'd-kiss-you spiel, preferred pronouns and names, whether they can tell others, and other boundaries. This kind of stuff could be perfect material for your roommate agreement. As stated in #1, you owe no one any sort of explanation or defense. However, recognize that people fear what they do not understand and that explanations can help put your roomie at ease.
Nowadays, a lot of people (including myself) come out before they've even met their roomie, via Facebook or texts of something. When she asked me about myself, I casually included the fact that I was pansexual among paragraphs about my siblings and hobbies and my obscene love of pasta. Online and pre-semester works because it removes a level of awkward and gives your roomie time to digest the information by the time the school year starts. Other people prefer face-to-face discussion for it's intimacy and sincerity. One person describes putting off The Discussion for two nervous weeks before finally kind of just blurting it out one evening. She says, "It ended up going extremely well. She listened and completely understood and didn't ask me any of the awkward questions like 'oh do you think I'm attractive?' The rest of the night was actually one of the best for us...we really bonded." Most people come out near the beginning of the year during the awkward getting-to-know-you-phase, but do whatever feels right. You do you, my friend.
IU has a very supportive and pretty fabulous (if an article involving gayness is written without the word "fabulous", does it even count?) GLBTQ+ community. They've got your back. The Gay-Straight Alliance, Gender Warriors, Queer Connection, Men/Grrrls Like Us, Sigma Phi Beta, the list goes on and on. If you're not sure what to do, swing by the GLBT Student Support Services on 7th and literally everyone in the building will be there for you. Talk to your RA or CUE. All of these people want to help you, really. We've been there. We know it really sucks sometimes, but we also know that things suck a whole lot less when you're part of a killer awesome rad community.
So good luck my friend! Get out there, bust down some closets, open some minds, butcher some preconceived notions, and live & love openly.
Name: Maggie Oates
Hometown: West Lafayette, IN
Degree and Major: BS Computer Science
Graduation Year: 2017