Survey aims to study gay students’ coming-out stories

Catey Watkins

Catey Watkins

A survey on gay, lesbian and bisexual identity development is being done amongst SDSU students for one graduate student to gain a better understanding.

Margaret Sykes is a graduate student in the Counseling and Human Resources Department getting her master’s degree in education in Student Affairs Personnel. Sykes conducted a study and presentation about gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) identity development.

She focused on how a person’s “coming-out” experience affected their development.

“I contacted the Gay Straight Alliance on our campus to see what it was like for SDSU students to go through this experience and see if looking at the affects of society, personal relationships and personal actions in fact did hinder their development,” said Sykes. “The information I gained from the organization did show a definite impact of these factors on GLB identified individuals.

“Having this information was significant because knowing what factors we should be aware of will help us as student affairs professionals ensure we direct our efforts to aid GLB students in the more effective ways,” said Sykes.

Sykes said members of the homosexual community have to go through steps of acceptance to come to the realization of their true identity in society. Once a person “comes out” they can then form their identity as a homosexual.

“These are all additional steps of identity development heterosexuals don’t have to go through since they never have to figure out who they are apart from society, because society accepts who they are,” Sykes said. “This means heterosexuals get to start identity development much earlier.

“My overall goal is to build understanding of the needs of this community, so we understand areas we can help these students with when we work with them,” said Sykes. “As far as helping, as student affairs professionals we work with these students all the time.

“If they needed support then we would need to know the campus resources available for them to turn to or ones we should make available, where they are coming from, and what causes this to be such a difficult event in their lives,” she said.

Tyler Peck, president of the Gay Straight Alliance, said that the GSA was happy to help Sykes with her study.

When Sykes came to a GSA meeting, she used a questionnaire with questions including: “How does your sexual orientation affect relationships with family, friends and your community?” Or “What is your personal ‘coming-out’ story?”

The GSA, which meets Mondays at 6 p.m. in the Black Hills room in The Union, is open to the entire community.

“What we really need is the community to be more open, tolerant and understanding,” said Susie Rodriguez, a member of GSA and sophomore majoring in psychology. “Coming out is and being open with your sexuality is one of the scariest things, and support really helps.”