The first National Coming Out Day was in 1988.
Twenty-five years later, students not yet 25 years old are sharing their stories of coming out as gay and lesbian.
“She was kind of saying, ‘are you sure this isn’t a choice? Are you sure you haven’t met the right girl, yet?’ So I was like, ‘no I’m gay, mom.’”
Derek Beckford is a senior at NMSU.
“When I came out to my dad it wasn’t as great…don’t talk about any gay issues with me.”
After two years and therapy sessions, things improved.
“He’s like this is normal and this is who you are…I’m coming to terms with it and now he’s getting much, much better.”
Beckford answers questions students and professors might have through the Sexual & Gender Diversity Resource Center.
At the center is coordinator, Jessica Spohn. She says coming out as gay or lesbian can be the hardest when it comes to family.
“You know you can get kicked out of the house…. get all your financial aid cut off.”
Her own experience wasn’t that bad, though.
“So I was like okay dad we’re going to this movie tonight…and they’re like me because I’m bisexual…and there’s food…I just kind of threw it in there. And he was like ‘yeah, I know anything else?’ Oh okay.”
Not everyone in the group is gay. Brandon Wise is a straight ally – someone who supports the group but doesn’t identify as gay, bisexual or transgender.
“There’s a weird stigma that you can’t hang out across boundaries…the main thing about being an ally is you don’t see the boundaries.”
Gay and lesbian students face fewer challenges today than 25 years ago, but there’s still some stigma when it comes to transgendered people.
Derek Beckford says it comes down to learning that everyone has two separate identities.
“Gender and sexuality are two majorly different things…that I think a lot of people collide because of stereotypes and other social norms.”
NMSU offers Safe Zone training that covers diversity…including sexual identity.
After taking safe zone training, staff and faculty can put signs up showing that their offices are zones safe from discrimination.
The training sessions are offered throughout the year.
The Sexual & Gender Diversity Resource Center is open during the week to NMSU students in Regents Row Room E-200.