In recent years, the LGBTQ community has changed, but the biggest change came from outside of that community in the form of one word: acceptance. Locally and nationally. American society went from one of rejection to welcome. With more and more individuals in the LGBTQ community being accepted for who they are, many–including Gull Lake’s own students–have gathered the courage to come out. These individuals have encountered varied responses to their sexual orientation: some good, some bad. However, these outcomes have made these people who they are.
Chandler Hargrove, formerly Natalie Hargrove, came out as transgender his sophomore year. Hargrove said he first knew he was trans when he kissed a girl. Hargrove had come out to his friend before his girlfriend he was dating at the time. He said he has gained plenty of new friends along his coming-out journey. However, there were many negatives that came with coming out as transgender.
“When I came out, I had a lot of death threats,” Hargrove said. “Most of them were in junior year. People said they wanted to rape me, kill me and beat me. Many males would say they would want to rape me and tell me I was too pretty to be gay.”
According to Human Rights Campaign’s study on Growing Up LGBT in America, nearly 18 percent of lesbian, gay or bisexual students have been raped at some point in their lives, which is three times greater than that of a straight student. Many people of the LGBTQ community have faced depression and the feeling of wanting to die. According to the Center for Disease Control, 23 percent of LGBTQ people who had dated or went out with someone during the 12 months before the survey had experienced sexual dating violence in the prior year.
Hargrove said there has been a lot of support since he came out, which is needed the most when first coming out. He has gone through a lot since coming out, but would not change anything despite what he has gone through.
He also offered the following advice to people coming out or those who have already come out.
“Just do ‘you,’” he said. “The more ‘you’ care about what they say, the more they will go after you. Just flaunt your flaws and accept them. They’re going to back off and realize that they can start accepting you when you stop caring about what they say.”
Hargrove said had a hard time with coming out, but not everyone has a difficult reaction.
Grace Wolverton is a sophomore who is pansexual, which means she can fall in love with someone regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, etc. Wolverton came out to her mother last year. She felt like a lot of people knew already, but she was still worried that, once people knew she was gay, that they would treat her differently.
“When I was in third grade, I thought I was gay, because I didn’t know there was anything other than straight and gay,” Wolverton said. “My mom told me not to worry about it too much.”
To help her better understand what she felt, Wolverton looked up terms and things began to click together for her. Wolverton came out to her best friend, Alexis Thrasher, who immediately accepted her for being pansexual.
“When I found out the right terms and everything I had been feeling, I was so relieved that I finally knew what I actually identified as,” Wolverton said.
Wolverton said she never had to worry about people attacking her physically or verbally. When she came out to her family and friends, they were very supportive. She never had the feeling that she had to worry that they would leave her life and refuse to accept her. Wolverton is part of the Gull Lake choir and Varsity Competitive Cheer team, and she said both proved very accepting of her and her identity.
“When I came out to my mom’s best friend, she was really happy,” she said. “My mom and family hinted that if she came home with someone other than a guy, they would still treat her the same.”
However, with all this positivity, Wolverton said she wished she had come out sooner. People worried she would hit on them, thinking that she was gay. She said she had put those experience deep down, ignoring what they thought.
She also said she wished she would have more upfront with her mom and dad about everything, rather than leave them in the dark, and believed that things would have been much happier for her if she had done it right off the bat.
In the LGBTQ community spectrum, there is also another form of gender identity that is not mentioned often. Many people classify themselves as being non-binary, which is a confusing concept to many people who have never heard of it before. In a nutshell, the person does not classify as a male or female. They would go by pronouns such as “they,” “them,” etc.
According to Quartz.com, roughly 1.3 million (8 percent) of kids in high schools across America have reported being gay or lesbian. Many still have not come out, seeing what some people will do to them. According to the same source, 11 percent of high school LGBTQ students have used some form of drug to “escape” from their lives temporarily.
Due to privacy, an anonymous sophomore wishes to tell her story, but not to release her name to the public. To put this into perspective, many people who are a part of the LGBTQ community are still afraid to come out publicly to everyone else, in fear of what has happened in the past to others.
It was 2015 when she came out to her friend, which was around sixth grade. She is attracted to both genders, when she would see males, she wanted to look like them as well. Her friend has been her biggest supporter throughout this entire experience and being out of the “norm.” She wouldn’t want any of it to change since it helped make her who she is now.
“Sometimes my family hasn’t been too supportive, and I have had support from certain people. It bothers me a little that the people that should love me the most don’t support me completely, but it’s okay.”