Pride Week began Monday, Oct. 11 and ends Friday, Oct. 15. In honor of Pride Week, students on Texas Tech’s campus shared their coming out stories on a personal level, and encouraged those who have not come out.
Stephen Chao, administrator in the Office of LGBTQIA Education and Engagement, said the office’s mission is to serve the Tech community through facilitating and leading programs and advocacy efforts that are here to support the LGBTQ community.
“We recognize that students often want to talk to just navigate this process, so we are happy to meet one-on-one with students and help with talking through what are things to consider when coming out,” Chao said. “Students may experience a wide variety of reactions, both positive or negative, or somewhere in between. Our office, we’re always happy to share any resources from other LGBT resources and organizations, or talk to students ourselves to think through how they might navigate this personal situation.”
Griffin Tingle, a first-year pre- nursing student from Kingwood, said his coming out to his father did not go well at first, but his mother and sister were supportive.
“There was a televangelist on TV that my dad was watching that was preaching homophobic stuff, which made my mom and I uncomfortable,” Tingle said. “We started talking to him about how he should turn it off for preaching hate, which escalated into an entire homophobic rant about how gay people would be condemned to hell. Then I came out and he started crying and yelling at me.”
Hollie Whatley, a first-year apparel design and manufacturing student from Houston, said she came out to her friends before coming out to her family because she knew they would be more accepting. Her sister is bisexual, so she saw the reaction her parents had and she was scared her feelings would be invalidated.
However, Whatley said when she came out to her parents, things went smoother than expected.
“My mom replied, ‘As long as they’re good to you,’ and I assume she told my dad because he started to tease me about not only boys anymore but also girls,” Whatley said. “I think that was him trying to let me know that he was okay with it having to have a true conversation about it.”
Whatley said staying in the closet does not invalidate a person’s sexual identity or gender.
People deserve to feel safe in their own sense of self, but also should not have to conform to what is appetizing to others, she said.
“Advice I would give to students who haven’t come out would be that there is no need to, especially in our current social climate,” Tingle said. “LGBTQIA identity has become more normalized and a formal coming out is kind of outdated. If you do come out, at least in my personal experience, all of the other students at TTU are really chill about sexuality and everything, which was refreshing to find out after moving here.”
Malasia Spain, a fourth-year social work student from El Paso, said she had to come out to herself before she could come out to the other people around her.
“I always thought I was bisexual, but coming to college showed me I still didn’t have the interest other women had to men, and I learned more about compulsory heterosexuality,” Spain said. “It made me realize I forced my attraction to men. I came out to my parents right afterwards, which really solidified it for me because I was scared when I first knew I liked girls at 13.”
There are events and groups on-campus that support students of all sexual identies and genders.
On Wednesday, Oct. 13, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Human Sciences Building room 111, the Tech Gender and Sexuality Association hosted its annual coming out stories event, Chao said.
The association has its own way of how it structures the space. It is a private space, and individual stories are not shared outside of the space, Chao said.
Along with the Tech Gender and Sexuality Association, there are other people and groups on campus that students in the LGBTQ community can reach out to for guidance, assistance and resources.
“Dr. Amanda Wheeler in the Student Counseling Center runs an LGBTQIA group, as well as a counseling group specifically for trans and nonbinary students or any student who is questioning their gender,” Chao said. “It’s a confidential therapy group where students are able to navigate that in a confidential space.