Being gay or lesbian at SDSU brings challenges and rewards for students

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

When Josh Yocom was in middle school, he took a different path than most of his classmates.

“I think everyone starts developing their sexuality in the middle school years,” Yocom said. “That was when I decided I didn’t like girls. I liked boys.”

Now, Yocom is a freshman English and communication studies and theatre major at SDSU and he stands at the center of an issue that causes strife all across the country.

Josh Yocom is gay and he is proud of that fact.

Nothing you say to him will make him think what he is doing is wrong or perverted or even out of the ordinary.

And, despite what many may think, he is not alone at SDSU.

Yocom is a member of the Rainbow Jacks, a group formerly known as Rainbow Connections, which provides gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgendered students of SDSU with opportunities to meet others that share their sexual orientations.

The group, which is overseen by advisor Jerry Sweeney of the history department and Robert Mendelsohn of the sociology department, has a screening process, which ensures that those not friendly to the people in the group are not allowed in.

But, despite what this may seem like, most in the group and most homosexuals at SDSU do not live in a climate of fear, just a climate of caution.

“I don’t come out and just blurt it to anyone standing around,” said Amy Huber, a senior sociology major from Elmorme, Minn.

Huber says she has been very relieved since she came out to friends a year ago, but she often finds herself resentful of the fact that she can’t walk down the sidewalk holding hands with her partner.

“You kind of hate the fact that you can’t be yourself in public,” Huber said.

Despite the fact that all people interviewed for this article were comfortable with their sexuality, only two (Huber and Yocom) agreed to go on the record as themselves.

Greg Sanders was one of those interviewed who did not wish to be identified. He has been out for the last four years and is very proud of his orientation in most circumstances.

However, he is working as a teaching assistant this year and doesn’t want to make his students uncomfortable.

In an ideal world, they would all understand where he was coming from, he said, but this is not an ideal world and different people believe different things.

“In the Midwest, (homosexuality) is something that is feared by a great number of people,” Sanders said. “I think a lot of the fear comes from, unfortunately, mistruths that are attributed to religion or mistruths based upon ignorance.”

Mary Lang, another person who did not wish to be identified for this article, does not want her parents finding out that she is a lesbian.

Lang’s parents are paying for one more semester of school, then she will tell them what she has already told several friends. She laughs and says she hopes it will happen over Easter dinner.

Lang came out because she was tired of denying who she really was to herself.

“You try and deny it and then eventually you’re like, you know what, that’s how it is,” Lang said.

Neither Lang nor Huber have told their parents. Yocom and Sanders, however, have shared the truth about themselves with their families. Sanders said it actually made him closer to his sister.

“In some ways, I think it’s brought me a lot closer to most people. I didn’t have any bad experiences with friends ditching me or anything like that,” Sanders said.

All four have experienced some form of verbal epithet and have learned to be careful about where they go. According to Yocom, parties with strangers and lots of alcohol are best to avoid.

“I’ve seen people throw punches at my friends when they try to defend me,” Yocom said.

To some degree, though, the hardest thing about being gay may be the continual coming out process.

“Even after four years, I’m still coming out to people and it’s not because I’ve withheld from anybody, it’s just because that’s how our society works,” Sanders said.

In the end, all four agree that those who think they may be gay should be honest with themselves and that the most important thing to do is to avoid discriminating against one’s self.

“Once you actually face the fact that you’re gay … you’re going to be happy with yourself,” Huber said.

And after that?

“I think … coming out to yourself helps who you are,” Lang said. “Everything else seems like a cake walk after that.”

#1.886701:1716489737.jpg:GayStoryJosh.jpg:Brookings native and SDSU student Josh Yocom has been out since his freshman year of high school. He says that he knew he was gay in middle school, but didn´t come to terms with it until high school.: