When J.K. Rowling outed Albus Dumbledore a few years ago during a Q&A session at New York's Carnegie Hall, the news went viral. Readers had their suspicions confirmed and members of the queer community held their wands high with pride. Dumbledore's queerness made Hogwarts a safe place for sexual exploration.
"University is naturally conducive to that. It's a time and space where many of us begin to claim a life and identity truly of our own," says Rebecca Koeller, who first came out herself as bisexual during her undergraduate degree at McGill University. "A life apart from our family and stories we've grown up on about who we should be in terms of gender and sexuality, as well as politics, values, career goals, tastes and all those things that make us who we are and inform how we want to live in the world."
Koeller, now living in Halifax, recalls her coming-out process as gradual. Both Vancouver and Montreal helped her feel supported by the larger LBGTQ community. Her close friends knew. But it wasn't until she was in graduate school studying community and regional planning at the University of British Columbia when she came out to her family.
"It was hard with my family back home. I was definitely anxious about it," she says. "They ultimately impressed me with how quickly they embraced me for who I am, and my then-partner, for who she was to me."
Her advice? Talk to others---knowing someone else has come out helps. Expect and demand the acceptance you deserve and try to be patient if it doesn't come easy. Often families need an adjustment period.
Fogo Creative's co-owner and communication designer Jody Burry found Nova Scotia's College of Art and Design fostered his sexuality and creativity. It took him awhile to come out to his family in Newfoundland.
"I feared it would forever change the way everyone looked at me. I dreaded the thought of being perceived as abnormal. It was an ugly period in my life," says Burry.
The freedom of leaving the rock behind helped. "Art school had its way of nurturing the need for me to show the world who I was," he says. "My creativity blossomed in a way that normal became the abnormal in that environment. I found comfort in that. I was proud of my queer perspective. It gave me a different lens."
Queer-friendly organizations include Saint Mary's University's SMU-Q (Saint Mary's Student Association, 923 Robie Street, 420-5761), a newly formed LGBTQ group aimed at educating students and the community; Mount Saint Vincent University's MountPride (Rosaria Student Union Centre, 166 Bedford Highway, 457-6123), University of King's College's King's PRIDE (The Link, 6350 Coburg Road, 429-3399), Dalhousie University's DalOUT (Dalhousie Student Union Building, 6136 University Avenue, 494-2190, dalout.ca), which offers educational workshops and hosts monthly fundraisers and events like Dragtacular Spectacular, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Come Out at The Grawood throughout the academic year.
Off-campus resources include Venus Envy (1598 Barrington Street, 422-0004), Halifax's sexual health shop/bookstore; The Youth Project (2281 Brunswick Street, 429-5429, youthproject.ns.ca); Halifax Sexual Health Centre (6009 Quinpool Road, 455-9656, hshc.ca); the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia (1668 Barrington Street, 425-4882, acns.ns.ca); Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (2100-1801 Hollis Street, 444-3206, nsrap.ca,), Nova Scotia's Human Rights Commission (1690 Hollis Street, 424-4111, humanrights.gov.ns.ca) and Halifax Pride (2182 Gottingen Street, 431-1194, halifaxpride.com).
Other safe spaces include the The Company House (2202 Gottingen Street, 404-3050), Menz Bar (2182 Gottingen Street, 446-6969) and Reflections Cabaret (5184 Sackville Street, 422-2957). If it's a cup of coffee and a mini-gourmet cupcake that's more your style, head over to FRED. beauty food art. (2606 Agricola Street, 423-5400) and pick up a copy of Wayves magazine (wayves.ca), a free monthly queer publication, on your way in.
"Coming out is just the beginning of finding yourself," says Burry. "Don't stress over the wording---you won't remember the moment when you utter the words. You'll just remember how light you feel afterwards."