Auntie SparkNotes: Out, Proud, and Edumucated
Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
I'm a junior in high school, and my parents are constantly on my case about colleges. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, because I'm a rather indecisive person and should probably get started with the colleges so I have an idea of what I want. My parents are very good at researching colleges and I am not, but they are pushing me towards conservative colleges, often Christian and in the South, and they don't know I'm a nonreligious gay girl.
I know I'm stereotyping, and I'll find people on a conservative campus who'll be awesome and accepting, but after being in the closet for so long, I'd like to be comfortably out to the general population once I'm in college. (Also, I'd like to be able to be in a gay-related group and find other gay girls, which would probably be more difficult in those types of schools.) I've been stuck in a home with people I'm scared to come out to, and I don't want college to be like that.
I've been unenthusiastic and have mildly rejected many of my parents' suggestions, but they keep 'em coming. My mom characterizes liberal campuses as places where I will be constantly confronted with drunk people, vomit, pot smoke, and loud parties, none of which I like, but I would be willing to bear. Also, colleges in the South are better financially, considering my ethnic minority status; I'm not such a minority here, and college can get expensive here in the Northeast. Coming out (as gay or as non-Christian) aren't exactly options, unless I want to make the rest of this year and the next miserable. How do I get across to my parents that I'm looking for a school, with no religious affiliation, with a liberal campus?
Well, there's always this:
"Mom? Dad? I appreciate your input, but I've decided that I would rather attend a school with a more liberal campus and no religious affiliation."
I know, I know; depending upon your parents' willingness to see you deviate from their preferences for your future, this information may not go over too well. But since you haven't said anything about what you want (like you said, all you've done thus far is reject their suggestions without offering any of your own), you could at least hint that you'd like to take things in a different direction—especially when the alternative may well find you stuck, for four more years, in a place where you can't safely or comfortably be yourself. You've spent enough time in the closet already.
That said, you might feel better if you start with the less-scary, non-parent-confronting part: researching schools on your own, and coming up with your own list of desirable options. This is your future, and you need to take the reins—and that would be true even if you weren't gay. If you're old enough to be looking at colleges, you're old enough to do at least some of the legwork yourself.
The good news for you is that you're already looking for something specific: a gay-friendly campus, preferably in a Southern state. Which means that where most kids have no idea where to start with their college search, you've already got two criteria that'll help you narrow the field of suitable schools. And more good news: most of the research has already been done for you. After all, you're hardly the first gay kid to be looking for a place where you can comfortably embrace your sexual identity. You can find a fair amount of information just by googling for "gay friendly colleges" (even the Princeton Review compiles data about the most—and least—tolerant schools in the States), but if I were you, I'd start with Campus Climate (click the link!), which lets you search for colleges by type, region and size, and ranks their gay-friendliness using a star system.
It could be that having some suggestions of your own is all it'll take to get your parents to stop steering you toward not-so-ideal colleges—and hey, you might even end up liking a school that also looks good to them. (Religious affiliation doesn't necessarily mean anything, by the way—for instance, Southern Methodist University in Dallas has a 4-star ranking for gay-friendliness. And even if you attend a school that has a religious affiliation, there's no requirement that you follow it.)
But while we're on the topic, I also would be remiss if I didn't point out that your mom's concept of conservative campuses as some sort of haven from all things drunk and decadent isn't particularly accurate. Liberal campuses might be friendlier gay-wise, but the Northeasterly and left-leaning do not, by any means, have a monopoly on drinking, pot-smoking, and puking. (I mean, have you ever seen the crowd at a NASCAR race? Try telling me that those people don't take their partying seriously.) And while you're likely to encounter drunken partiers on any college campus, they're also easy enough to avoid by, y'know, not going to drunken parties.
So get googling, do your homework, and then suggest a few schools that seem like a good fit—and see how your parents react. If you're lucky, they'll simply step back and let you take the lead. But if they argue, the research you've done will have armed you with the information you need to make your case.
Are you, too, googling for gay-friendly schools? Share your wisdom in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.
Related post: Auntie SparkNotes: Education Ultimatums