How COVID quarantine hurts LGBTQ college students at home

Mar 24, 2021 by

Enrique stepped into his childhood bedroom on March 12, 2020, and felt the crushing absence of all that he had gained while at college for the previous seven months.

Thinking of coming out? | Counseling Center

The walls spoke of the nights he cried himself to sleep after he came out to his parents as a high school junior. “You’re not that kind of person,” they had told him. “It’s probably a phase.”

Enrique tore down his old “Dragon Ball Z” and “Sailor Moon” posters and rearranged his furniture to look more like his dorm room, but nothing could recapture the freedom he had felt at college. Now back home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Enrique fell into a deep depression as he grappled with his parents’ unwillingness to acknowledge his queerness.

Enrique is expressive and theatrical by nature, and his college friends embraced those traits. But around his parents he is reserved and quiet — a return to how he behaved before leaving for college.

“It was like going back into the closet,” said the 19-year-old Enrique, who asked to be identified by a nickname for fear of harming his relationship with his family.

The forced homecoming of college students has been particularly painful for those whose families either do not know of or reject their LGBTQ identities, according to therapists, college staff and students themselves.

Many students went from experiencing the immense relief of independence and belonging to once again feeling trapped in an environment that threatens to unravel their hard-won self-confidence.

It was like going back into the closet

Enrique

“For a lot of folks, college is the first time they can be open and honest about themselves and who they are, what they like, who they like,” said Sean Boileau, behavioral health services director for APLA Health, an L.A.-based nonprofit that provides healthcare to LGBTQ people.

Despite major shifts in public attitude toward LGBTQ people over recent years, many parents still struggle to affirm their queer and transgender children. According to a nationwide survey of LGBTQ college students from the University of Maryland, 30% heard their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people more often during the pandemic, while 35% said they lied to their families about their identities more often.

Source: How COVID quarantine hurts LGBTQ college students at home – Los Angeles Times

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