Exclusive to O&AN
by Barron Whited, MS.Ed.

As the holidays rapidly approach and students head home for break, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students who are not out to their families will be facing emotional challenges and distress.

Students may feel obligated to act a certain way, avoid difficult conservations, and isolate themselves from family to cope with the lack of acceptance. Here are some suggestions to help the GLBT students through the holiday season.
Tip #1: Be yourself (have confidence in who you are as a person).
One of the stressors for many GLBT students may be pressure to act a certain way in front of their families because of their views on homosexuality. The thought of having to portray oneself as straight, less feminine or butch can be very uncomfortable, but because they want to keep the peace in the family, they feel obligated to keep up the charade.

Rather than putting pressure on yourself to fit in, relax and let it go.
Tip #2: Have a positive outlook and stick with it.
GLBT students may be confronted with difficult conversations like; “Are you dating anyone?” “Who do you hang with?” or “What do you do on the weekends?” While the questions may be innocuous, to a student hiding their sexual identity, they can feel like attempt to elicit a confession, increasing their uneasiness.

Rather than focusing on the meaning behind every question, focus the conversation on lighter or fun stories.
Tip #3: Give yourself a breather if you need to take a walk, nap or visit a friend
It seems easier to hide in your bedroom and watch TV, than encounter the awkward and uncomfortable situations that may occur during the holidays. But it’s not fair to you or your family to ostracize yourself.

Rather than avoiding situations, take a break, regroup and come back to it later
The holidays are stressful enough with all the responsibilities, obligations, and relatives, but for GLBT students it may seem even more overwhelming and insurmountable. Thoughts of going home to a homophobic environment can cause anxiety, panic attacks and depression.

If depression is left untreated, it can lead to suicide, which is the leading cause of death among gay male, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual youth according to the most recent statistic (National Lambda Foundation, 2000). It is vital for the GLBT student to surround themselves with love, encouragement and trust during the semester break. Having a supportive friend to call, email, IM or text during this trying time can be a way of coping with the holiday season.

Barron Whited, MS.Ed., earned his Masters of Science degree from Duquesne University in Education in School Counseling and is Certified as a K-12 as a School Counselor. He also holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in Biology and Communication. Barron has 14 years of experience in elementary, secondary and higher education which includes: The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, ICM School of Business & Medical Careers, Franklin Regional School District and Penn Hills School District. “Barron has been featured on “Pittsburgh Today Live” on KDKA (shown below) and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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