Loneliness is a universal experience, it tugs on the heart of every person regardless of one’s background. However, a new Chegg Media Center, found in their State of the Student survey that 60 percent LGBTQ college students feel “very lonely” at their university.
Chegg Media Center surveyed 1,001 currently enrolled college students to “gain a deeper understanding of the perceptions of enrolled college students.” This study focused heavily on mental health, and when asked about loneliness, 60 percent LGBTQ students reported they felt “very lonely.” On the other hand, only 38 percent of straight students felt very lonely.
Many members of the gay-straight alliance club at the ASU West Campus, Spectrum, shared a personal connection to this statistic.
“Coming here and sharing a room with four other guys was hard,” said Anthony Mazzola, a member of Spectrum. “I wasn’t making any friends so I was kinda lonely but once I started coming [to Spectrum] I started making friends and it became better,” Mazzola said.
Megan Cheid, a freshman member, said,” I came from the Bay area, [so] when I came here, I expected to [face] discrimination here. I was warned that Arizona is very conservative. So, it was difficult having to transition from everyone knowing and being okay with to having to explain how it is biologically logical to be what I am.”
Xavier Morett, the president of Spectrum, believes much of the loneliness can be attributed to the unrealistic portrayal of LGBTQ college students.
“I think part of it is you think [to yourself],’oh college means I get to be free,’ but then the idea of what the freedom is still very, very heteronormative,” Morett said,” Whenever I see LGBT [people] depicted in the ‘free college life,’ it’s experimentation and it’s not actually permanent.” When Chegg asked student to identify their sexual orientation, two percent of student identified as “bicurious”, which reflects Morett’s sentiment that many students feel their identity remains experimental, rather than permanent.
For some members, however, feeling lonely comes with the territory. Many expressed feelings of loneliness even before stepping foot on a university.
Courtney Coffman, a Spectrum member, said,” Throughout all of high school, I was out to some friends, but I only knew straight and cisgender identifying people so I quite literally didn’t have anybody who identified [like I do].”
A fellow member, Elisabeth Livingston, experienced similar circumstances in her teens. She said,” When it comes to talking about being LBGTQ, I feel like I really can’t talk to anyone else in this kind of environment because at least in high school I really had no one to talk to. I just had to be so in the closet, constantly.”
In State of Student survey, Chegg also found that 19 percent of students felt they had discriminated on because of their sexual orientation. Though many members of Spectrum attest to homophobia on campus, most feel supported by ASU faculty.
“To their credit—I think [ASU] tries their best. I think that West [campus] has a lot of teachers that would stand up for LGBT issues. I feel like Dean Aska would fight anybody [who threatened LGBTQ students],” Morett said.
Sophie Vine, the vice president of Spectrum, said,” Dean Ramsey, the dean of Barret Honor’s College, came to our first meeting and said, ’We are a safe space, please feel free to come to me if you have any problems.’”
Morett jokingly adds,” Honestly I think that the most homophobic thing [the ASU administration did] is when they brought Chick-Fil-A onto campus.”
Though LGBTQ community at ASU face their challenges, it is the community that keeps the LGBTQ students grounded and cheerful.
Coffman expressed her fondness of Spectrum. She said,” “Recently, I came out to my mom and it did not go very well. [My home life] is a part of my life that I cannot be myself, but then I have this part of my life, which is Spectrum, which is very fostering and… gives me that place to go where when I didn’t really have anywhere else.”
Other members share the same experience as Coffman. Livingston said,” I like coming to this club [because] I feel like I can actually be out for two hours a week.
When I told my mom, it did not go as well as I hoped. I’m bisexual, and she basically told me that I can’t know how I feel and I’ll move past ‘it.’ She told she always imagined me being a mother and that’s reason I couldn’t be bisexual,” said Livingston. “So being in this club actually gave me a place where I could feel valid about my identity, so Spectrum gave me a safe space because I don’t have one outside of here,” Livingston said, as her voice welled up with emotion.
“[When] I first came into this club,” said Vine,” I sat in a corner and did not say a word the entire time because I was always brought up to like boys and that is all. That’ll I’d get married and have kids and will be your life.”
Vine also began to tear up as she said, “And now I’m standing in front of the people I love most, and leading them. I never thought that would ever happen—being confident in who I am.”
“I’m my own person now, I’m human. Until this point in my life, I never considered myself the person I want to be,” Vine adds. “And this club did that for me, and I want to be that person for someone else.”