Coming out in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community can be a difficult undertaking, but students now have a new tool to help navigate through the process. The University’s Spectrum Center, which handles LGBT affairs, recently announced the creation of a new student program called Guidance, Perspective and Support. The GPS program was launched a couple weeks ago and will provide students with a more flexible support network for dealing with all the issues that can arise when coming out. This new addition to the Spectrum Center’s services sends a strong message of encouragement to individuals who might otherwise not have enough support to come out. The Spectrum Center’s efforts should be complemented by a student community that shows support and respect for students who come out.

Through the GPS program, LGBT students can now receive mentorship in a more flexible environment. GPS pairs up students with other students who have already come out — these mentors understand the complex situations faced when it comes to sexual identity. The program’s coordinators in the program match these mentors with students who have similar backgrounds and identities, helping to create a supportive environment for those looking to join the LGBT community. Unlike other support programs that typically meet on a weekly basis, this new program allows students to plan meetings anytime during the school year. The GPS program also allows students to meet with mentors at locations outside of the Spectrum Center so they can more easily maintain their privacy.

And the Spectrum Center is the best equipped campus organization to fill this need. As an organization that serves the LGBT community by providing companionship, comfort and advocating social justice, the Spectrum Center is most able to help students dealing with these issues of their sexuality and gender identity. The Center offers a multitude of services and support resources in addition to the GPS program, like the popular National Coming Out Week. And it also ensures that weekly support services are available to students who wish to take part in them.

The GPS program was created to supplement the existing mentorship programs on campus, and it fills an important need. It’s important for individuals struggling with their sexual or gender identity to be welcomed in the campus community. And it is equally important that individuals know that they will be supported as they come out to their friends and family.

But the success of such efforts still rests upon the entire campus population. Students must work to make the University atmopshere one of acceptance and tolerance for LGBT individuals. This includes putting an end to discrimination, homophobia and other backward attitudes that can make being part of the LGBT community a difficult experience.

It’s up to everyone to ensure that campus is a welcoming environment for individuals of all sexual and gender identities — and that when these individuals come out, they are greeted with approval and acceptance.

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