Matthew’s Place
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Matthew’s Place

Your School Survival Guide as an LGBTQ+ Freshman

By Elena Jenkinson

IMAGE CREDIT: Julie Wilensky

The school year has started again, and a new group of students has transitioned to high school. For many, this means a new building, new teachers, new classmates, and a significant increase in work. Being a young queer person can make this especially difficult, as you have to navigate both high school and being queer.

Safety is a priority for many students. It is always difficult to be 100% sure that a person, group, or community is a safe space for you to be openly queer (whether in-person or online). Each person has to decide what to do depending on their situation, age, knowledge of the queer community, and environment. If you don’t know where to start, this high school guide will provide several different strategies that can be picked and chosen based on which ones fit best for your situation.

  1. If you’re not in a situation where you can be openly LGBTQ+ without putting yourself in danger (both mentally and physically), then sometimes staying closeted is the better choice. Additionally, don’t force yourself to come out to someone if you don’t feel ready.
  2. Take the time to educate yourself on your school’s policies and the laws wherever you live on LGBTQ+ rights and protection. Continue checking in to make sure you’re up-to-date.
  3. Prioritize your mental health. Suicide rates and mental illness rates are higher in queer people, and high school adds more stress with classes and tests. Take time to focus on how you’re doing emotionally, and find a positive way to vent. Examples could be talking with a close friend or writing down your thoughts on a page before ripping it up. Finding a safe way to express frustration and maintaining good mental health while young will help you throughout your life.
  4. Seek out other queer people, or people that you can be out with, in your school or online. However, if online, take precaution (especially if you are a younger queer person) as online spaces can be found by others (leading to the chance of you being outed) and can lead to negative experiences with the queer community if proper research into the online space isn’t conducted.
  5. Consume queer media and support queer creators. Seeing your identity positively reflected in media can improve your self-perception and self-esteem. Seek out positive representation in books, TV shows, or movies that are created by or include LGBTQ+ people. Make sure to consume stories that focus on queer joy, not just transphobia or homophobia.
  6. Join an LGBTQ+ group or GSA (gay-straight alliance) if possible. Make sure to find a club that works for you — do you want to advocate for queer issues, to educate others, to share your experiences with other queer people? If there are no clubs that you can find and it is safe to do so, see if you can make one.
  7. If you would like to, find ways to advocate for and educate others on LGBTQ+ rights. However, remember that it isn’t your job to do so and you shouldn’t feel forced to, especially if it risks your physical or mental health.

As the school year continues, be sure to take time for yourself, do things you enjoy, and don’t procrastinate! Being young and queer can feel overwhelming, but by employing a number of strategies, you can decrease that stress and find a safe place for yourself to be you.

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