Love notes between Barbara Billings, biology freshman, and her former girlfriend Ana were kept hidden in the only place the high school couple felt was safe: Ana’s backpack.
However, the day Ana left her backpack on the family’s couch was the day her mother said she was told by God to search through its contents.
The truth had come out.
Billings may now be able to joke with her father about women they find mutually attractive. However, that was not the case when, at 17 years old, she was prompted by the discovery of her love notes to Ana to tell her parents she is a lesbian.
“My parents are very awkwardly okay with it, (but) at the same time they think it’s just a phase,” she said. “I really want them to understand it’s not a phase.”
In high school, Billings and Stephen Gonzalez, communication design senior, were in different phases of coming out.
Gonzalez said he referred to the advice of his priest and did not let others’ words influence him, despite being teased in high school for his sexual orientation.
“My priest told me this: ‘The first thing you have to realize is it’s your life, and you have to make of it what you want it to be,’” Gonzalez said. “I remember thinking, ‘If someone isn’t going to accept me, then why do I need them in my life?’”
The advice from Gonzalez’s priest proved to be healthy—not only for him, but for his bullies too. He said his former bullies have since made amends with him.
Gonzalez transferred from Del Mar College to Texas State in 2010. He said the move allowed him to fully express himself and make lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends. He did not want to fear that relatives would discover his sexuality.
Gonzalez’s membership in Lambda of Texas State, a social and educational organization for LGBT students and their straight allies, provided the impetus for change within himself.
He said his position as president of Lambda of Texas State gave him the confidence to tell his parents he is gay.
“It was shocking at the time,” Gonzalez said. “They were scared and confused. However, at the end of the conversation, they were laughing. I think they realized they did not need to approve of my lifestyle. They just needed to accept me as their son.”
Andy Campbell, art and design senior lecturer, said he was privileged to have had an easy time coming out to his family and friends.
The Austinite said in a way, his mother “dragged him out of the closet” at 12 or 13 years old.
When Campbell was about six years old, a desire to bring a “very cute” gymnastics instructor flowers was, in retrospect, the moment he knew his sexuality.
Gonzalez was in seventh grade when he realized his attraction to men.
However, in hindsight, he experienced a similar scenario as Campbell. When Gonzalez was about four years old, he found himself enjoying holding hands with a boy.
Gonzalez said he struggled with his romantic feelings thinking “Was ‘this’ going to be with him forever?”
He said a best friend’s mother, whose brother is gay, approached and reassured him that his sexual orientation was not wrong. He said she was the first adult to do so.
Since then, Gonzalez said he has matured and thrived at Texas State, because of his fellow Lambda members, who are considered family.
“I definitely think this campus is LGBT friendly,” he said. “It is really accepting, because now I’m at the point where I don’t care who knows about me. And it’s not like I say, ‘Hi, I’m Stephen and I’m gay,’ but I genuinely feel that this is a safe campus.”