I didn't come out until I went to college. Here are the things I would've done differently and suggestions on how you can better your college experience as a gay man:
Dorms and Residence Halls
Living in a residence hall as a freshman was the first time I ever lived on my own. It was overwhelming at first, but I was excited to get away from home. I knew I was attracted to guys; but I was way too scared to explore my feelings so I stayed in the closet for a while. I was also somewhat distant from my co-ed hall mates. I feared my secret might ruin my new friendships.
- What I would have done differently: Looking back on the situation, most of the guys and girls around me were also excited about being away from home and exploring their own interests. Months later, when I did come out, I found that most of them didn't care at all. I wasted great bonding time and denied myself some wonderful experiences by not being myself. Of course, you should only come out when you are ready (and I wasn't at the time), but try not to make assumptions about your new suite or hall mates. They are looking to find themselves in their own ways. You are entitled to the same.
After months of thinking I was the only one, I ran across a guy in one of my classes that I had a feeling was gay. Tired of having no one to talk with about my sexuality, I did everything I could to befriend him. I joined his math group. I asked if he wanted to study together. I made random comments about lecture. We eventually became good friends and came out to each other.
- What I would have done differently: I invested a lot of time trying to figure out if one guy was gay, as if he was my only option. And while it paid off and I had a new gay friend, looking back I would've explored more. There were many gay and gay-friendly groups on campus that I could have joined to meet other gay people. I could have also reached out and befriended more of my dorm friends. I later found out that they knew other gay people and could've made a connection. When looking for gay friends on campus, don't put all of your hopes on one person. Explore and be proactive about your search.
I longed for a boyfriend, especially after I started meeting gay friends. I would chat with guys online, but either couldn't get up the nerve to meet them or I just didn't think they were a good fit. I didn't give up my search, though. I knew eventually I would make a connection with a guy I liked. But when I did meet my first boyfriend, it was in the most unlikely of places–a club I joined. It wasn't a gay club, but there were gay guys in it. Me and a few of the guys eventually became friends since we spent so much time together at club meetings. One of the guys and I became especially close. He was my first boyfriend and my first love.
- What I would have done differently: Prior to meeting my first boyfriend, I became more and more eager to find a man. It would have been best if I let the situation happen instead of letting my desperation drive my actions. Usually, the best dating situations happen in the most unlikely of circumstances. When I stopped seeking, I found a great guy. Just like making gay friends, it's best to get out there and explore social or academic options on campus. You and another great single guy will eventually find each other. Another lesson I learned was taking a more active role in my safety, which brings me to the next topic.
Meeting someone online is a cool way to get to know them–initially. I would chat with guys online during study breaks and off time. I developed an entire network of online buddies. But, after some time I wanted to meet them face-to-face. No online dating questionnaire or number of chat hours can replace an in-person chemistry check.
- What I would have done differently: There were many times when I would meet up with online guys only to discover that we didn't quite connect in person. Also, I didn't take my safety into account enough times. Unfortunately, not everyone online is on the up and up. You should always follow these safety tips before meeting an online buddy in person. Also, if you have a suite mate or close buddy, give them your schedule and keep them up on where you are traveling around campus (especially at night). It's always better to side with safety.
Some people choose to explore same gender sexual experiences while in college. A first same-sex experience can either be a wowing confirmation of your emotional attractions or not at all what you expect (or a little bit of both).
- Suggestions: Take your time when exploring your the physical aspects of your sexuality. There is no rush, nor does a prize go to the quickest explorer. It's best to be selective about who you experience with. Know the person, get proof of their HIV status, practice safer sex, and always keep your safety in mind.