The Counseling Center is an affirming and confidential space
that may be helpful in exploring your identities and addressing concerns that
may accompany that exploration. The Counseling Center routinely works with
allies and advocacy groups on campus to promote a safe and inclusive
environment at UWSP. In collaboration with our campus partners, we have
assembled the information below to help students who may be considering coming
out, questioning their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, searching for
information, or interested in advocacy for matters related to sexual and gender
Sexual orientation refers to whom one is attracted to emotionally, sexually,
physically, and/or spiritually.
Sexual orientation falls along a continuum. In other words, individuals can
feel varying degrees of attraction for different genders. Sexual orientation
develops across a person’s lifetime. Different people realize at different
points in their lives that they are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or somewhere
outside of these specific identities such as pansexual or asexual.
Sexual behavior does not necessarily equate to sexual orientation. Many
adolescents, as well as many adults, may identify themselves as lesbian, gay, or
bisexual without having had any sexual experience. Other people have had sexual
experiences with a person of the same gender, but do not consider themselves to
be gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
Gender identity refers to a person's innate, deeply felt
psychological identification as a man, woman or some other gender, which may or
may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth. Because this is an
internal identity, it may not be visible to others.
Gender expression refers to external characteristics and
behaviors (clothing, hairstyle, etc.) that are socially categorized as
masculine, feminine, or gender neutral. Some individuals express their gender
in a way that is consistent with their gender identity, while others may not
feel safe or able to do so for a variety of reasons.
Transgender is an umbrella term referring to those whose gender
identity is different from the one assigned to them at birth. The term trans*
includes all those who challenge the traditional gender binary or identify
within the wide spectrum of gender variance, without specific emphasis on
identity labels. Some individuals who identify as transgender or trans* choose
to seek medical care such as hormone therapy and/or surgery in order to express
their gender in a way that is more consistent with their identity. Others may
not undergo these physical transitions, either by choice or due to a variety of
potential barriers to this type of intervention.
Coming out is a process of understanding, accepting, and valuing one’s sexual
orientation or gender identity, and is a lifelong process. Because of societal
prejudices and discrimination, coming out can be a difficult process for people
who identify within the LGBTQ community.
Coming out is a continuous process which includes both recognizing part of
one’s own identity and sharing that with others. Realizing one’s sexual
orientation or gender identity happens in different ways and occurs at
different ages for different people. Since people tend to assume that a person
is heterosexual and cisgender, people who identify as LGBTQ have to face the
decision of whether or not to share their sexual orientation or gender
Coming out is not an all-or-nothing process. Oftentimes, for safety reasons or
otherwise, people may be out in some areas of their lives and not others.
Coming out can stir up a myriad of emotions and may include some degree of loss
for many people. Coming out can present many benefits including the feeling of living
as your authentic self, connecting with others, and being more honest with
family and friends. Unfortunately, these experiences are not always shared
amongst individuals in the LGBTQ community. Coming out can also present a lot
of anxiety, rejection, prejudice, and discrimination as well.
People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender often face
problems more difficult than those that are faced by people who identify as
heterosexual or straight. These experiences often create a sense of isolation,
fear of stigmatization, and loss of peer or familial support.
It is important for people to keep an open mind and support individuals who are
facing these problems. Even one person of support can make a huge difference in
these individuals’ lives.
For more information on how to be a supportive ally, contact the Gender and
Sexuality Alliance (GSA), attend one of their Safe-Zone training sessions, or visit
Youth who identify as LGBTQ have few opportunities for observing positive
modeling by adults due to the general cultural bias that makes people who
identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender invisible. It is this
isolation and lack of support from community members, friends, and family that
accounts in part of the higher rates of emotional distress and suicide attempts
amongst those who identify as LGBTQ.
The Counseling Center is a resource for students who are struggling with issues
relating to their gender and/or sexual identity. We encourage you to make an
appointment with a therapist at the Counseling Center if you could use professional
support. To make an appointment, please contact the Counseling Center at
The Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) also has great resources for finding
support here at UWSP. The GSA strives to provide services to students who
identify as LGBT and to act as advocates for these students to the campus at