• Ray Christian
  • Guin Thi
  • Sarah Mbiki
  • Fidel Leal
  • Kemal Atkins ’92 ’96
  • Traci Royster
  • Brian Shangwa ’15
  • Susan M. Branch ’99

It Gets Better project

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  • Caroline Noel: It is really surreal thinking back on how things have changed since I left home. I always had a loving and accepting family, but I was too afraid of myself and who I really was that I couldn’t even let them in. I didn’t know who I was, how I felt, or what I’d become. I was numb and unfeeling. I was bored and becoming extremely anxious. The people who I had known, loved, and trusted didn’t really know who I was. They couldn’t have known because I was too afraid to be myself and too afraid to let anyone know what was going on. I just hid from everything and everyone. Now, I can’t even imagine how I made it through that. At 18 I came to App and, even though I am the quiet type, I started making friends fast. They were friends of all shapes, sizes, sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions, and backgrounds. I became a leader in the LGBT community through a group called transaction. This same group also made me realize, through the friends I made there, that I didn’t have to be man or woman. I could just be me and people would still love me. They were right. It gets better.
  • Angel Perez: When approached with being part of an “It Gets Better” video, my immediate thought was “Does it?” Has my personal life gotten better the more I’ve expressed myself as an individual with discrepancies of what is expected of me? It certainly it more difficult and confusing to interact with new people who come from backgrounds that haven’t informed them about people like me. Even my mother doesn’t and probably won’t ever fully comprehend who I am and what I believe in and will judge me. The first 3 months of college, we refused to speak with one another because she didn’t understand how or why I cared so much for the LGBT community, and she was afraid that the introduction of deviance would corrupt me.  But if I need to get bothered every time someone doesn’t understand me, then why do I like myself? I like myself because I will never need the approval of others to feel confident in a course of action and I feel the more I develop and progress as an individual, the more accepting and worthwhile people I encounter. It certainly gets harder but by all means it gets better! Why would I choose an easy life of acceptance on a superficial level when I can have some of the best and most enlightening relations with diverse and genuine individuals that sincerely love me? So I challenge others to extend past the borders and limitations that common acceptance gives. I challenge others to get better before things can “get better.” Good luck and remember, there is more love than appears.
  • Johnny Burleson: I was 24 and it was summer. After being fired from a job because of a question about my sexuality, I was at a very important cross road in my life’s journey. For years I had concentrated on university and work and was surprised to find myself confronting the secret that I had ignored for so many years- the secret that I was gay. I grew up in a loving community where family and faith were important. I always felt supported and loved, but nonetheless grew up knowing that questions of sexuality were unacceptable. There had been many points in my journey where I have had to make a hard choice, but none compare to the choices I made that summer when I was 24. I chose to listen to my soul and live my life openly and honestly. There were many voices competing for my attention, but there were some special ones who I found along my path that guided me through those very tough days. No matter what your path, seek out those special voices, those special people who will guide you along your journey. They will point you to places –holy places- where the world and your soul are at peace. Always follow the path to those places and never look back! I’ve been at Appalachian for almost 5 years now, and this is one of those special places in my lifes’ journey. It really does get better-just look all around, and you will find it.
  • Linda Coutant: I feel so blessed to be where I am in my life- I enjoy my job, I have a loving and supportive partner, and I’m surrounded by wonderful family and friends. Not all my life has been this heavenly, and I believe it’s because I spent too much of my energy caring about what other people think. Too many years worried about not somehow living up to what I perceived people expected or wanted of me. What I’ve come to learn is that by being myself, the people who matter and who are life-affirming are drawn to me and those who don’t accept me fall away. I am very grateful to all the people in my life who have taught me valuable lessons so I can be the person I am today, even though some of those lessons were difficult. I came out to myself at age 22, but it would be another 10 years before I fully came out to family members and all friends and coworkers. Each time I verbalized my sexual orientation, the fear I had was dissolved when the other person would say, “That’s no big deal,” or “We wondered when you’d finally say something.”  See, too much time spent worrying! Embrace life and all it has to offer. Grow, evolve! It does get so much better!
  • Natalie Fullam: When I came to App I had only hugged my best friend a handful of times. I had grown up fearing showing any kind of affection to my female friends thinking that someone would accuse me of being gay. When I came to college and was able to be honest with myself and come out, something changed. I learned how to let people in. I learned that it was okay to give a friend a hug without fearing someone might scream “Lesbian!” and I learned that it didn’t matter if they did. I hug my friends now. I’m a hugger. I’m not scared of anyone accusing me of being what I am. I have found a group of people that help me on my worst days. They love me. They are my family here. And me being gay isn’t the thing they remember most about me. It’s a part of my identity, not my whole self. It gets better. It does, I swear. You learn to let people in. You learn to be honest with yourself. You learn to be yourself. Life is so much better now.
  • Shelby Forsyth: For me, college was a chance to finally reveal a part of myself that I had kept hidden for a while. I could start relationships with new people - people who hadn’t known me since. I remember coming out to my roommate freshman year. She barely knew me as it was, and here I was coming out to her... but I got up the courage and told her. The best part of it was that she looked at me, shrugged, and said, “Okay.” It was so nonchalant... but at that moment I felt this enormous weight lifted from me. Someone KNEW me. Someone knew me and accepted me for who I was. And it was okay. After that, each time I came out, the process was easier. I stopped worrying. I stopped being ashamed. I started loving myself, and I surrounded myself with people who loved me too. Everyone says college is a change to recreate yourself. But I didn’t need recreating- I needed revealing. At Appalachian, I found the opportunity to reveal myself, and through that process, I have found friends and a place where I belong.
  • Tommy Wrenn: It gets better- and it is getting better. I came out to my family when I was 15. I don’t know if I felt that I was totally ready, but what I have learned is that there is no way to be fully “ready.” You never know what the response will be from those around you- your family, your friends, your church etc. Looking back I remembered being so scared of what my Dad’s reaction would be. What would he say? What would he do? How big of an embarrassment would I be to him? The night it came out that I happen to be gay, my Dad was the first person to talk to me. To my surprise, he told me that no one should ever make me feel lesser because of who I loved. He told me that he would always love me no matter what. I am blessed with a supportive and loving family. In coming out one of the main things I learned was that people surprise you. The person you thought would run, is the one who holds you closest. The one you may have expected to stay can end up being the one you did not need. Things are not as bad as they may seem. Stay positive when forced with negativity. Stay true to yourself so that others will continue to learn acceptance. Be yourself, love yourself and it will get better.

If you need someone to talk to, there are people who can help. You are not alone.

Contact the Counseling Center or the Henderson Springs LGBT Center on campus, or call The Trevor Lifeline 24/7 at 866-488-7386.