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January 14, 2000 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-01-14

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12 - The Michigan Daily-- Friday, January 14, 2000

-FRIDAYFOCUS

14

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SA senior Luke Klipp is quite familiar with
being inside of the closet. Sitting in Caribou
Coffee, reclining in a chair and picking at a
bagel, Klipp says without hesitation he "always
knew" he was gay.
Klipp explains that as early as age four he devel-
oped an interest in an older boy and began to emu-
late him. While his parents thought it was cute that
he had a role model, they didn't realize it was really
a sexual attraction, Klipp says.
The realization and coming out
Klipp said similar feelings surfaced during junior
high school toward another classmate, but he didn't
think that meant he was gay. Even though it felt like
"a little light turned on," Klipp said he didn't want
to act on his feelings. Instead, he kept them hidden.
Then for one week during his first year of high
school, without telling anyone, Klipp decided he
would take on the mindset that he was gay and try
being comfortable with his sexuality.
"It was relieving. It made sense to me," Klipp said,
explaining that the week was the first time in his life
he was not afraid or ashamed of his identity.
But Klipp said once the week was over, he felt
angry at the prospect of returning to a way of think-
ing that he didn't relate to. Since he attended a
Catholic school, Klipp said he couldn't tell any of
his school friends about his homosexual feelings
fearing he'd be kicked out.
It wasn't until the next year that Klipp told his par-
ents that he was gay.
Klipp said that coming out to his parents was dif-
ficult because it challenged the vision he felt they
had of him. He recalled his mother asking if he was
sure he wasn't bisexual, at the same time his father
started listing reasons his son couldn't be gay.
But Klipp said he also remembers his older sis-
ter coming out, when he was in eighth grade. He
said neither he nor his parents seemed surprised
by his sister's announcement.
Finally, during Klipp's first year at the
University his father came out of the closet.
"I didn't know how to feel," Klipp said,
admitting that he had a more difficult time
coping with his parents' separation, than
finding out about his father's sexual prefer-
ence.
Much like Klipp, Rackham second-year
student Maya Vaughan-Smith began to
notice her sexual feelings tended toward the
same sex at an early age.
Vaughan-Smith identifies herself as a
"bisexual lesbian," meaning she has relation-
ships with males and females, but predominate-
ly females.
She came out privately when she was 13. At the
time, Vaughan-Smith had a job volunteering at
church. Although Vaughan-Smith said she was blind
to the coming out process, she wrote herself a note
on the church letterhead about her affection for a
female.
Looking back, Vaughan-Smith
says it was her coming out process.
While Vaughan-Smith said she
didn't acknowledge her sexuality
until she was a first-year student
at Rutgers University, she started
in high school to change the way
people viewed her.
"I cut off my hair in rebellion to
boys and to my family," she said.
After trying a failed attempt to
tell her mother, Vaughan-Smith
revealed her sexuality to her fam-

experience. "It's much easier to go along with the
flow."
Klipp said that being gay "is not such a big deal
... there needs to be a dialogue" about it.
To help facilitate a dialogue, the University's
Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender
Affairs office coordinates a group of speakers to
inform and educate people about different sexual ori-
entations each year.
Holly Ferrise, LGBT coordinator of education and
training said the Speaker's Bureau includes about 30
members but expects to gain 20 more by next month.
Ferrise said members from the group frequently
speak to classes, student groups and travel to other
campuses.
"It's a way for LGBT to have some consistency
in the program andto educate through sharing per-
sonal histories," she said.
LGBT Director E. Frederic Dennis estimates that'
"at least 10 percent of-the population is lesbian and
gay," in the United States.
But Dennis said it is difficult to give an exact
number because many are reluctant to accept or dis-
close their sexuality.
LGBT offers many support groups including a
group that specifically focuses on the coming-out;
process.
The group, Ferrise said, meets for 10 weeks and
is anonymous.

was a lesbian her mother said, " Erica, I know you
love boys." Sopha said she was so eager to get her
mother's approval the next day she started a rela-
tionship with a man that lasted six months.
But Sopha said after her experience that summer,
she felt like a stranger in front her friends. She began
painting as a method of introspection, got piercings
and tattoos and even
quit basketball,
which she had
played since
high school.
Although
Sopha said
she knew she
was a lesbian,
it wasn't until
she went to
the campus
group that
she finally
admitted it.
Sopha said
she has never
regretted her decision to come
out, "I never wished I wasn't gay."
Klipp also said the University offered him an envi-
ronment where he had freedom and found real
friends.
As a graduate student, Vaughan-Smith said she
finds the campus "less of a social scene and not as
fun." She said people are "very complacent" and
suggested they should integrate more.
While Sopha said people at the University have
been very supportive, she remembered one inci-
dent with a University employee, in a confi-
dential setting, who was "patronizing"
when she told the woman of her sexual
orientation.
She said the woman made her feel
"ashamed."
Rarely does UHS receive com-
plaints regarding employee insensi-
tivity, Winfield said.
UHS has adapted its style of ques-
tioning, Winfield said, to include be
sensitive to sexual preferences. UHS
has replaced the "husband/wife"
question on their forms with "part-
ner."

1

"We're all comfortable working
with gender issues," Winfield said.
"All of us at Health Services are real-
ly interested in helping out patients if
they're going through a transition like
coming out in what ever way we can," he
said, adding that UHS tries to help students
be who they want to be.
In her residence hall at Rutgers, Vaughan-
Smith was known as the "Dorm Dike," a name
she says she found humorous. But Vaughan-
Smith said college life was difficult for her. She
remembered losing roommates after they discovered
AID ROHKIND/Daiy her sexual preferences.
"I felt at times the girls
didn't get to know me,"
Vaughan-Smith said.
When asked why she
told them about her sex-
uality she explained, "I
couldn't not tell them
because I was very
active on campus."
Of nearly 30 people
on her floor in her res-
idence hall, she said
that throughout the
term eight girls came
told her they were
having either bisexual
feelings, experiences
or they were thinking
KIMITSU YOGACHI/Daily of conversion. "They
Luke KIlpp reads in his East Quad just wanted to brag
om last night. ABOVE: Rackham about it," Vaughan-
lent Maya Vaughan-Smith sits in the Smith laughed.
yesterday. LEFT: Students kiss on the Vaughan-Smith said
February 1999 "Kiss-in." she made a goal to
have a relationship
with a girl while in

ily in an e-mail message.
Vaughan-Smith said mother
didn't believe her. Her mother
explained that lesbians are women
that wear all leather and don't
want to be with men, women who
will have sexual intercourse with
anything - man, woman or
dog- or women who were raped
or abused and can no longer toler-
ate men.
Vaughan-Smith said her moth-
er thought her revelation was part
of a phase. She said coming out
both as a bisexual and lesbian took

I

some time.

Talking about it
University Health Services Interim Director
Robert Winfield said since health care is closely
linked to sexuality, he often assists student who
appear troubled with their sexuality.
But UHS officials also refer patients who desire
help or counseling regarding their sexuality to
University Counseling and Psychological
Services.
Audrey Kim, a psychologist at Counseling
and Psychological Services, said, "Coming out
is a difficult and stressful process
for most people, and counsel-
ing can be beneficial."
Klipp said he doesn't see
the significance in trying to

FILE PHOTO
"They cover a different topic every week s
family, getting involved in LGBT and self-es
she said.
Ferrise said the next session begins in Febr

uch as
teem,"
uary.

The benefits of diversity
LSA junior Erica Sopha, came out through one
University-sponsored group last year. Through the
group Quiet Women and Reform Sopha
was able to accept her sexuality.
Sopha said the group helped her real-
ize that being a lesbian is "not a bad
thing."
Although she had significant relation-
ships with males in high school, Sopha
said they just "didn't click." Also dur-
ing her tumultuous high school years

college.
Her relationships were "never sexual at that point,
only fantasy," she said.
At about 20 years old, she became involved in a
serious relationship with a man who proposed to her.
He said he would only marry her if she abstained
from her
lesbian ten-
den c i es.
They did-
n't get
married.
"I don't
know if I
believe in
marriage i
since mar-

.4

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