Allies & Advocates

Developmental Concerns for GLBT Students

The University years are years of extreme change. Students are confronted with a variety of issues. Each issue is dealt with differently based on the students' maturity and the experiences that he or she has had. As a result, the students may be struggling with his or her identity may have a more difficult task as these issues appear.

Many activities during the undergraduate years encourage students to develop self-esteem and a distinct identity. For the gay, lesbian, and bisexual student, answering the questions, "Who am I?" can be very difficult. Because homosexuality and bisexuality are not widely accepted or even seen as healthy or acceptable by many people, gay, lesbian, and bisexual students begin the self-esteem battle a few steps back. They may question their self worth and wonder where they fit in to society and the university community. In addition, the majority of activities during the undergraduate years are heterosexually based. Whether social functions or dating, the gay, lesbian, and bisexual student can experience extreme anxiety as he or she decides how to "play the game". Coupled with this issue is the fact that most gay, lesbian, and bisexual students do not find a community with which to connect initially. As a result, gay, lesbian, and bisexual students may feel even more isolated than heterosexual students may.

During college years, students also begin to make decisions about what role religion will play in their lives. For gay, lesbian, and bisexual students, coming to terms with their religious beliefs can be a difficult task in light of the fact that homosexuality and bisexuality are not accepted in most religious environments. Other issues that with challenge gay, lesbian, and bisexual students will be coming to terms with career goals and health related issues such as coping with AIDS and the fear that goes with it.

In addition, there are some unique issues that face gay and lesbian students that heterosexual student do not have to face. There are differences between gay men and lesbians in the process of identifying oneself as lesbian or gay. Men seem to become more anxious and concerned about the possibility that they might be gay than women. Once the identification has been made, men tend to view it as a discovery in that they have finally acknowledged their homosexuality. Women, however, reconstruct the past by examining and emphasizing their significant friendships/relationships with other women. In addition, there are issues concerning:

  • Grieving the loss of membership in the dominant culture and entry into a permanently stigmatized subculture.
  • The experience of being a minority, especially an invisible minority and its impact on one's life.
  • Lack of family support or strong role models to help them deal with their new found status and identity.
  • Potential lack of peer support.

Source: Safe On Campus resource manual – Western Michigan University

Page last modified December 22, 2010