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When Your College Roommate Comes Out as Gay or Lesbian

What to do About a Gay Roommate

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When you show up at your new dorm room for the first time, you may have some trepidation about meeting your roommate. Will we get along? Will she be messy? Many of us have never lived with anyone besides our families and now we’re expected to share a tiny room with a complete stranger. You and your roommate may end up as friends, or you may just tolerate each other until the end of the school year. But what if your roommate is gay or lesbian? What do you do then?

What should you do if your college roommate comes out to you?

College is a time of freedom and self-discovery. For many gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people college is the first time they are able to open and out about their sexual orientation. Or college may be the time when someone, away from the influences of their family and old friends, discovers that they have a preference for the same-sex. About one in 10 people are gay, lesbian or bisexual, so that means you have about a one in ten chance that your new college roommate is gay, lesbian or bisexual.

What You May Be Feeling

If your roommate comes out to you, the first thing that might be going through your head is that they are going to be attracted to you, that you aren’t going to be able to undress in front of him or her.

First of all, relax. Chances are your roommate is not attracted to you! Just as most heterosexual people are not attracted to all opposite sex people, gay people are not attracted to everyone of the same sex.

It’s Okay to Ask Questions

If you’ve never known a gay or lesbian person, you may have questions for your roommate about his sexual orientation. It’s okay to ask if she is dating anyone or even questions about how they came out and came to know they were gay, lesbian or bisexual.

If you have any concerns, bring them up. The key to any good relationship, whether with a partner, roommate, friend or family member is good communication. Don’t be afraid to bring up questions and concerns that you may have so that the two of you can openly figure out how to deal with them.

Educate Yourself

Websites like this one have a lot of information about what it means to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. Most colleges have some sort of gay/straight alliance. Check it out and learn more about gay culture and community. Having a gay roommate could be one of the best things that ever happened to you. Your roommate can open doors to you to a community you did not know existed.

This Won’t Be the Last Gay Person You Meet

Even if this is the first gay person you meet, it won’t be the last. You may end up having a gay professor, a lesbian boss or a bisexual co-worker. If you can be comfortable around LGBT people in the close quarters of a dorm room, you will be well equipped to handle the diversity of the rest of the world.

If you come from a background or religion that believes that homosexuality is wrong, it’s best that you keep those feelings to yourself. Some religions call homosexuality a sin. Others are more open and accepting of gays and lesbians. The debate is still out on this topic and probably will be for a long time. You are not going to change or convert your roommate. If you know that you could never accept a gay or lesbian person, then the best course of action is to quietly seek out new living arrangements.

What He or She Might be Feeling

Try to have compassion for what your roommate is going through. While it might be hard for you to hear that your new roommate is gay or lesbian, coming out can be the hardest thing gay, lesbian and bisexual people go through. She may have spent the whole summer fretting how her new roommate was going to react. Because gay and lesbian people experience a lot of prejudice and rejection, your roommate is probably really scared of what your reaction might be. Try to be as supportive as you can. Imagine how hard it is for her to tell you. Be flattered. If someone comes out to you, you should take it as a compliment that they feel safe with you and trust you.

Dos and Don’t

  • Don’t assume your roommate is hitting on you or attracted to you. Just like straight people are not attracted to everyone of the opposite sex, gay people aren’t either.
  • Do learn a bit about gay issues.
  • Don’t “out” them to other people in the dorm. You can ask who else knows and if it is okay to talk about it with other people.
  • Do try to keep an open mind. Learning about different cultures and ways of life is one of the things college is all about.
  • Don’t ask personal sex questions unless you have that kind of close relationship and want to share about your sex life as well
  • Don’t spend the rest of the semester avoiding your roommate. If you need to talk with someone about your concerns, pick a compassionate friend, counselor or clergy. The best way to deal with your concerns is to face them, but processing with a neutral person before you talk can be helpful.
  • Do go easy on yourself. You might slip up and ask a question that your roommate thinks is silly or ignorant, but if you approach the situation with an open mind and compassion, she will hopefully be compassionate back to you.
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