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Tackling Sexist and Homophobic Slang On The Field

by RO_Meredith College

Have you ever heard a word that made you cringe? ReachOut Peer Supporter and college student Nick had that feeling again and again after he joined the school rugby team and repeatedly heard offensive terms casually tossed around by his teammates. This is how he dealt with it.

Before joining my school’s rugby team, I was unaware of some things that happened on and off the field.  The sport of rugby is stereotypically considered a hyper masculine arena where any form of weakness is looked down on, but I didn’t think about this when joining up because I love the sport and wanted to be more involved on a team.

Then, I began to notice a lot of stigma around being different, being gay, and for one person who came to practice, being a woman. Many of the guys on the team were using language that is really offensive, but as straight, white males, they seemed to have no idea of the damage they were causing.

For instance, every time they would use a gay slur or a demeaning term for women to demonstrate weakness in someone, they didn’t seem to realize how terribly hurtful and inappropriate their words were. Even the coach would use similar terms until I gave him a disapproving look and he said he was sorry immediately. But I know that if someone like myself was not there, this would never be challenged. It seemed that this type of shorthand was normal in the world of men’s sports.

Instead of giving up because I knew I would never really fit in, I began to let them know why what they were saying was problematic. Every time they would call a woman a “bitch,” I would say, “Gee, do you call your girlfriend a bitch?” in the hopes it would make them think how disrespectful it was. Every time they would say something was gay, I would say “that is so breeder (slang for straight)” in hopes it would make them realize the ridiculousness of what they were saying. The guys would respond to this with faces that expressed discomfort and I think it’s because deep down they knew that they were saying the wrong thing. I truly think I was one of the first people to let them know how damaging their careless way of speaking with one another was to people different from them.

Knowing that they will most likely never have to experience discrimination firsthand, I hope that by being on the team with a gay man, who directly addresses their ignorant actions, they will at least start to evolve, especially as the world of sports becomes more accepting of diversity.

What I would pose to the reader of this blog is this: Think about how you interact with others in your peer group. Are you respectful of difference, and if you don’t think so, think about how you speak to one another. Even if the language you’re using is normal in your circle, would you say it to your mother or a stranger?  Hopefully, that self-check will help out a lot!

Lastly, to those out there of all ages, sexualities, cultures, and genders, know that you have every right to be included in sports, under the law and most likely by your school or  organization. Be who you are on the field and never hide yourself from your teammates. Have confidence in yourself and your teammates will see it as well.

About Nick
Nick is a San Francisco State University Psychology Major with a Counseling Minor who plans to pursue a Master's in Counseling Pyschology at SFSU. He loves ReachOut as a Peer Supporter and user of the many resources we provide. In the future he hopes to work with the LGBT young adult population while still playing rugby for an adult team.  


Gay but no one knows

by Liz_ReachOut College, Friends, Mental Health, School

Two young teen boysWhen a forum member told the ReachOut community they were gay but their friends all thought they were straight, and said, 'I need someone to know and to tell me its going to be okay,' this is what they got:

"Thank you for being brave to come out to us here! You're great, and it will all be okay! There's no need to rush into coming out, especially if you don't think you are in a safe environment to do so. But I promise it will all be okay, and we still love you <3"

"Not only will everything be okay, but it is MORE than okay to be you. That is the one and only thing we will always be growing with until we die. Being you. If people dont like it. That is their issue. Does not mean those poeple are everyone. There are so many people that will love you for just being you. I already love you. You are my friend. Because no matter what size, shape, gender, race, or sexuality. We are all one, and need to respect that. I would youtube the word. "sonder" It ia an amazing 2 minute or less video on this new and fascinating word. It was posted on my birthday, and ever since. My life has changed. You are loved. Being attracted to someone is NOT a bad thing, and expressing your feelings neither. If anyone has anything to say about anything? It is a mirror reflection of something they can't fix in themselves. It will be more than okay. because there are towns out there that have more LGBTQIA that "straight" couples You are loved, and if you need to be reminded again. Hey you. I love you"

When the original poster wrote back to say, "...i feel like because im older that i should have came out by now but im just starting to figure myself out," the supportive responses just kept on coming: 

"Hey, starting to figure yourself out is a really great thing! If it makes you feel better, I came out only last year, and I was a sophomore in college then!"

"I just wanted to tell you that it WILL be okay. :} ... I can tell you it will make you hella happy to finally put a step in the direction of your real self. If you're not certain yet, then don't come out so suddenly; just go at your own pace. Sometimes it is pretty hard admitting something to yourself, or even digging deep enough into yourself to find the real you. When you reach that point, all you'll feel is liberation in finally finding everything. So it will be okay Danielle, we're here for you and we hear you; now smile? All will be well!"

"I understand that feeling of "I should have come out already or had myself all figured out way sooner." I've had that same feeling before. The thing is, nobody has it all figured out. And we all come to terms with things at different times. I came out in terms of my sexual orientation at 12, but didn't start really exploring my gender identity until like ten years later. Everything has its time. So, no pressure, okay? Give yourself time to explore and ponder and reflect. You don't need to come to a certain answer or conclusion. There is no deadline. Getting to know yourself is a lifelong project."

If you need support around coming out or exploring your sexuality and/or gender identity, register here for the forums or post in the LGBTQIA thread and get the help you deserve.

New Roommate Survival Tips: Dorm Room Edition

by RO_Meredith College

Among the many big changes a new school year can bring, leaving high school and starting college can be one of the more challenging. But fear not! Our summer intern Aishwarya, who sets off for RIce University this fall, is here to help. Check out her tips for preparing to meet and live with a new roommate below!

When I find myself flipping to August on my calendar, I know instantly that it’s THAT time of the year. You know, the time when you have to glare at your textbooks again; the time when all you see in department stores are constant reminders that life as you know it will soon be over. And for those of you who are like me, in the transition between high school and college, those back-to-school feelings are getting even more complicated. You may or may not want to admit it, but many of you are slightly nervous. On top of all the other changes, if you’re moving into a dorm, you now have to live an arm’s length away from a person whom you’ve never met: The New Roommate.

Whether your roommate was randomly assigned or handpicked by you, you might feel pressured to compromise and change your habits. Most colleges will pair up people whom they think will get along well, but how much can you really tell about a person based on some questions that they answered? In the end, sometimes these pairings work out and sometimes they don’t.

'Nice to meet you! So…should we use your fridge or mine?'

Stalking your roommate on Facebook is unfortunately not the best way to get to know them. I’ll admit that as soon as I got my roommate assignment, I looked up my roommate on Facebook. Let me just tell you that apart from noticing that my roommate-to-be had red hair, I learned nothing substantial about her. So all of you out there who are scared of potential awkward situations, just bite the bullet and message, email, or call your roommate and introduce yourself. 

My roommate and I have been messaging each other, and at first, it started off with questions and comments like “Are you bringing a fridge?” or “I’m bringing a printer.” But soon enough, we began asking each other about where we grew up and what we’re planning on studying. Now, I’m in constant contact with her and it’s great to be able to form a more complete picture of my roommate. However, meeting your roommate in person is perhaps the most important piece of the roommate puzzle. People can be very different online than in person, so keep your mind open when you first meet your roommate face-to-face.

When the room is too cold and your fingers start to resemble icicles...
I may meet my roommate and we may end up being the best of friends. But I also know that I may hate how she keeps the room as cold as the North Pole, or studies really late at night with the light on while I’m trying to get to bed in order to be coherent for my 8 a.m. class. I might be able to deal with this for a few days, but when I wake up one day to find that my fingers have become icicles, I might blow up just so the anger that I feel will warm me up.

I know there might be some ups and downs along the way, but I also believe that communication can solve anything. My roommate might not know that I’m bothered by some of her habits, and maybe expressing some of my concerns in a non-accusatory way will make her more conscious of her actions. If I did something that bothered my roommate, I would want her to talk to me so that we could both be comfortable. It may seem easier to just deal with whatever your roommate does, whether you like it or not, but you want to be able to communicate with the person you living with because both of you are really in the same boat.

'Sorry, I can't go out. Grey’s Anatomy is calling my name'
Just because you’re living with this person, doesn’t mean you have to become this person either. I know many people—including myself—who worry about how they will fit in at college and whether they will be able to make friends. It makes you hope that you’ll at least find some solace in your own dorm room, with your roommate. But just because your roommate likes to go out every Friday night or is taking way more credits and classes than you are, doesn’t mean that you should as well. In fact, the great thing about college is that it’s not high school – you have the independence to make your own choices.

College is about exploring your passions and doing what you think is fun and exciting. It’s great to explore new things, and meeting new people at college will expose you to so much more. However, there is no need to force a connection where there isn’t one. Just as you won’t necessarily feel heartbroken if your roommate isn’t into discussing cadavers with you, your roommate will also most likely not be offended if you’re not as into classical literature as she is. Introducing each other to the other’s world is great, but you don’t have to immerse yourself in it if you don’t want feel like it. If you just want to kick back on Friday night and watch Netflix with some other friends with the room toasty warm while your roommate goes out to another weekend party, then do it! There’s a place for everyone at college, so find yours and own it.

The countdown to start off the new school year has begun, and the day to meet The New Roommate is rapidly approaching. As I’m slowly packing away the life that I’ve known into my suitcases, I hope that college is all that I’ve dreamed for it to be. Hopefully I can check off “Successfully coexist with ‘The New Roommate’” off of my list when I get there.

For more tips and information, check out these fact sheets:
Meeting new people
Peer pressure
Effective communication

About Aishwarya
My name is Aishwarya, I'm 18 years old, and I will be a college freshmen this fall. I am back interning here at in San Francisco (I was here last summer as well) and once again, I'm having a wonderful time! In high school I was involved with my school newspaper as well as my school's TV station. By getting involved in these organizations, I got interested in and introduced to the world of writing and journalism. I also volunteer at my local hospital where I deliver reading materials to patients. The most important thing I've learned in my life until now is to take chances and believe in yourself, and I will definitely be following that advice as I start my journey as a college student!

Don’t Stop Believin’: Coping with the Loss of Cory Monteith

by RO_Meredith College, TV and Film

corymonteithThe sudden loss of 'Glee' star Cory Monteith hit a lot of fans hard this past weekend. Among them was our summer intern and devoted Gleek Andres Gutierrez, who shares his personal experience below and reflects on the unique challenges around grief and substance abuse. 

I was having a relaxing Saturday evening when I found out about Cory Monteith’s passing. After a fun day of shopping and hanging out, the last thing I expected to hear was that kind of news. So maybe that’s why when I woke up on Sunday morning I was surprised again when my boyfriend reminded me. The rest of the morning was a blur as I tried to comprehend that someone so important to me, who I would consider a friend even though we had never met, was gone. A numbness and shock overcame me, preventing the truth from sinking in fully.

I didn’t know Cory, but I knew Finn Hudson pretty well. On the TV show "Glee," Finn, played by Cory, was a leader. He was the main character, but he was so much more. He became a teacher to his peers, he supported his step-brother Kurt when he was bullied, he inspired his girlfriend and friends to reach for their dreams, and he helped his friends learn to accept every part of themselves. One of the most touching moments for me was when he tried to help Santana come to terms with her sexual orientation -- his performance of, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” still brings me to tears. As a Gleek, I struggle to imagine what the show will be like without him.

Cory’s passing brought forth other feelings and memories for me as well. A few years ago, my mother, who was struggling with substance abuse and had been in and out of rehab, passed away suddenly. Much like Cory, who was in rehab earlier this year, she tried to seek help for her problem. Their passings are unfortunately paralleled in my mind and in my heart. Although there isn’t the same emotional connection with Cory as there is with my mother, I recognize the similarities in their lives and in their passings. They each had their struggles and made some choices that were not always for the best, but they also tried to use the lessons they learned from those experiences to share something better with the world.

"Glee" is a show for young people that is meant to make everyone feel special and realize how important their voice is and how powerful their presence can be. My mother raised me on the values of respect and equality and taught me to be a force of love and positive energy in the world. When my mom passed it felt like I was only supposed to speak about the positive things from her life, which left me feeling uncomfortable because her substance abuse had been such a major part of my life. Likewise, with the passing of Cory, I know that as a celebrity and as someone who played such an iconic character, his problem may either be forgotten or excused. I realize, though, that these two individuals were not great because of, or even in spite of, their problems; they were great people who happened to have problems. As such, I believe that the best thing that I can do is acknowledge them completely, learn from them and move forward with my life spreading the message that I believe they were hoping to teach me.

What about coping? For me, coping comes in many different forms and it depends on what I need at the moment. Sometimes it means that I listen to music, sometimes, like now, I write and sometimes I sit on the couch and watch "Glee" with my boyfriend. Coping happens differently for everyone at different times and maybe for you it means something else. Maybe this passing brought up different memories for you, like it did for me, and coping might mean revisiting strategies that worked in the past. Whatever works for you, provided that it’s safe both physically and emotionally, do it. And if there is something that I take from all of this, it’s that when I need help or when I see someone who needs help, I will reach out.

You may also find some of these fact sheets helpful:
After someone has died how you might feel
How talking to someone can help

Do you have thoughts, feelings or a favorite Finn moment that you’d like to share? Or have you found or made tributes to Cory that you would like to share? Comment below or join our discussion in the ReachOut Forums.

About Andres
Andres Gutierrez is excited to be starting an internship with this summer! Andres will be entering his senior year at Stanford University in the fall where he is pursuing a degree in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity with a focus in Education and Counseling. He finds writing to be one of his favorite forms of self-expression and stress-relief and is also hoping to complete a minor in Creative Writing. At Stanford, Andres has worked as a Peer Counselor, a mentor in the LGBT Center and as an Outreach/Communications Coordinator with a partnership focused on raising awareness of mental health and wellness across the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations.

Photo by David Tonterias

College: The Next Step

by RO_Meredith College

Fact: The thought of starting college makes most incoming freshman equal parts nervous and excited. As our Youth Council Member Brandon relates below, it comes with the (very unfamiliar) territory. The good news is you're not alone and the more informed you are, the smoother the transition from high school will be. So check out the advice Brandon has recieved so far and dive ino the fact sheets on orientation, moving away from home and more at the end!

It’s that time of year where thoughts start turning to mini fridges, extra long twin sheets, and shower sandals. College is just around the corner for millions of teens throughout the United States. For many, like me, it’s for the first time. My name is Brandon; I’m a ReachOut Youth Council Member and will soon be a college freshman.

Up until this point, nothing about college seemed real. Yes, I’ve slowly been collecting things for my dorm, arranged my class schedule, and picked out my roommates but it still didn’t feel real.  I’m actually getting ready to move out for the first time in my life and go to a place that’s completely unfamiliar to me. All in the hopes of doing well enough to be able to get into graduate school. This all started to sink in about a week ago, and then everything got very real.

All sorts of questions ran through my mind. If there’s a “what if” situation that can relate to college at all, I’ve probably thought it. College is definitely a new experience, which would probably explain why it can feel so scary. We’re scared of the unknown.

We all know college isn’t cheap. When you’re paying that much for an education, you don’t want to mess up.  There’s also the social aspect. You’re out of your element. For me, it’s the move from a smaller town of a couple thousand to a city like Chicago with about 2.7 million residents. When you add in that you may not know anyone at your school, it can be overwhelming. 

But along with my worries have come some answers. I’ve been talking a lot to friends who are older than me and have already finished their freshman year. It turns out I’m not alone with my worries. So, if you’re in the same position as me, you’re not alone either. Whether you’re continuing to live at home and attending a community college or heading off to a university and living on campus, college is expensive either way. Financial worries can easily get the best of you, but they don’t have to.  My friends all said that money is tight in college, but that’s how it is for almost everyone. There are plenty of things to do on campuses around the country that are free and can be fun. Also, I was told to keep an eye out for free festivals or events in the city of your college to help keep your weekends filled with fun and your wallet from becoming even emptier.

Not one of my friends mentioned anything about having difficulty finding friends. While they did mention that the people you’re friends with the first couple weeks probably won’t stay your friends, they did say that once they got comfortable in their classes they always had someone to hang out with. Another great thing I learned was that in college, there’s no social hierarchy, or at least as we knew it in high school. So say goodbye to the days of feeling like everyone is judging you and hello to acceptance.

College is a lot different than high school but in some very good ways. This is your time to find out what you want to do and who you want to be as well as to create lifelong friendships. So as we get ready to start this next chapter in our lives and attempt to put our worries aside, just remember there’s a reason a lot of people say college is the best years of your life.

For more information and tips on starting school on the right foot, check out these fact sheets:
College orientation
Moving away to college
Myths about college
Meeting new people

Photo from Flickr

About Brandon
My name is Brandon. I am 17 years old and am currently a senior in high school. When I am not occupied with my part-time job or on my social networks (Facebook, Twitter, & Tumblr), I find myself active in National Honor Society, Rotary Interact, and Big Brothers Big Sisters all through my school. Outside of school, I volunteer at our local food pantry, am a student election judge, and am a worship leader at my church.  I look forward to helping those who are going through things similar to what I did, and to help then realize: I’ve been there. I’ve made it through. And I am now stronger than I ever thought I was before.


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