“Coming out” is helped by media

Kelly Metz and Kelly Metz

‘Mom, Dad, I’m gay.’

These are the few words that most teenagers of the homosexual population are scared to say, and in some instances the parent is scared to hear, due to recent studies which have shown more and more gay teens are ‘coming out’ at earlier ages.

According to an article that appeared in USA Today, one major reason for coming out at an early age is due to ‘growing acceptance of gays and more supportive adults and positive gay role models in popular media.’

These role models include many popular shows such as ‘Will and Grace,’ which points out a more humorous view of the gay lifestyle.

Eric Crumrine, president of Vision, a student organization which promotes the gay-straight alliance, believes that the media has a huge effect on whether teens come out at early ages.

‘One thing about ‘Will and Grace’ that helps teens come out is that it shows people are surviving,’ Crumrine said. ‘There is no discrimination; it is very lighthearted, which engages people. It shows that it is possible for everyone to be okay with it and everyone loves it.’

Derrick Daggett, vice president of Vision, believes that although ‘Will and Grace’ does show a more lighthearted view of being gay, it is not completely accurate because it only represents a stereotype which is not necessarily there for gay teens.

Not only do TV shows affect the morale of young teens but other prominent figures such as Ellen Degeneres, Elton John or John Amaechi, who became the first player in the NBA to come out as being gay, help gay teens to realize that they are not alone.

‘Acceptance levels of people in the culture add to visibility of the gay community,’ Crumrine said. ‘We’re being exposed more in the news, TV and media earlier and earlier which helps people out there to relate.’

Sophomore Mark Gardener also believes because of role models in television, more people are accepting in communities and more teens can relate to the lifestyle.

Not only has support been increased from the media, but also from the school system.

According to USA Today, in the mid-1990s only a few dozen gay-straight alliance clubs were among US schools; presently, there are 3,200 registered within the education network.

Colleges have been constructing their own support systems by including clubs such as Vision which helps people break from their demographic.

‘Bowling Green itself is split down the middle, there are more colleges out there that are more diverse and therefore more accepting, but this is the best we can do right now,’ Daggett said.

Gardener said the campus, if it were on a grading scale, would be a C average for acceptance of the gay community. He said that in some of his classes when discussing gender roles, homosexuality comes up in a negative light but there are always going to be people like that, but at the same time there will also always be people who are OK with the idea of being gay.

More and more parents are coping with the idea of having homosexual children, especially when these families reside in conservative Christian neighborhoods or churches.

‘My friends reacted great and I was not treated any different. With my family it was a struggle because they are very church-going people and they believe that this is not an acceptable lifestyle,’ Gardener said.

‘A lot of issues about coming out are affected by the setting they are in,’ Crumrine said. ‘If you are in a small area where there is no visibility, and you are the only one, you may not want to come out because you have no support.’

Both Crumrine and Daggett have very similar demographics. They are from small very conservative towns where they did not feel comfortable coming out at first.

Once in college, where there is more diversity and visibility, they felt better about being themselves.

Gardener is an only child which was harder for him to come out because the family name ends with him.

Not all coming out stories are bad though.

‘Generally, overall, my family and friends were OK with it,’ Crumrine said. ‘We had our ups and downs, and I did lose some friends and struggled with some family members, but overall, it was a good experience.’

Crumrine said he believed about 80 percent of the gay population has good experiences with coming out.