Meeting Special Needs

Rivera Will Work With Students Who Are Forming
Their Sexual Identity and Orientation

by Fernando Quintero

With the observance of National Coming Out Day this week, Elizabeth Rivera, the newly appointed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Director, plans to be busier than ever.

Rivera, who has worked as a student adviser at the Women's Resource Center since 1990, was named to her new position this summer.

The position was created after the campus advisory committee recognized the need to address the special needs of students who are forming their sexual identity and orientation.

Rivera, 38, will also work with staff, matching them up with students to provide mentoring and other support. She said she would like to hear from staff who are interested in working with students.

"I'm interested in looking at creative ways to mentor students, provide student leadership development and other ideas," Rivera said.

Up until now, activities, events and support for gay and bisexual students were completely initiated and run by students.

"That's really commendable. But there was a huge gap existing when students were on summer vacation, or too busy with their own studies to help other students in need," said Rivera.

Rivera said gay and bisexual students can now get an "institutional response" to their unique needs, which validates and supports their identity.

For young people, "coming out" during their college years can be an overwhelming experience.

"Students often feel isolated during the time when they are developing their sexual identity, which can affect their academic performance," Rivera said.

Some students are afraid to ask for help. For some, disclosing their sexual identity is too terrifying.

"For those who come out this week, there's still Thanksgiving coming up and families to deal with," said Rivera. "The big question is: 'I've got to go home. What do I do?'

"There are other questions: Should I come out in a personal statement when I apply to graduate school?"

For gay and bisexual students of color, the formation of their sexual orientation often comes at a time when their racial identity is being formed. Rivera, a Chicana originally from southern California, is sensitive to such dual issues.

"I know what these students are going through," she said. "I want people to know, if I made it, anyone can."

Elizabeth Rivera can be reached at the Women's Resource Center at 642-4786.



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