My Name is Rachel Spence…

Picture3I am from Edmonds, WA


I identify as Queer, Pansexual or Lesbian, depending on the day and the person who asks…


I came out when I was 15 years old


I Am A Queer Peer.


I came out to an older friend.

I picked her because she is a very open minded person and gives good advice.  At this point I was very much questioning and not really out to myself.  She told me it is ok to not have everything figured out.


Up until I started questioning my sexuality

I told my parents everything so it made sense that they were the first
to know.  My mom was very supportive and told me she already knew.


Unlike my mother, my father

Was very cautious and worried that being gay would make life hard for me.  However, once he got used to the idea he was also extremely supportive.


I told a very out and proud friend.

I picked him because I wanted to talk to someone who had gone through some of the same experiences as me.  His reaction was to give me a hug and sing “If you were gay” from Avenue Q.


The best part of my coming out experience was coming out to my high school’s GSA.

It was very powerful to be in a room full of people who not only supported me but really understood what I was going through.  I took away from this the importance of a queer community and that is why I want to strengthen the queer community at Bates.


The hardest part of the whole process was coming out to myself.

I was very very lucky to have a super supportive coming out experience.  Most people I told were accepting. At age 14, I just wanted to be like everyone else and the thought of being different was terrifying.  I overcame this challenge by reading a lot of queer novels and books on queer issues.  This plus talking to people I knew who were already out helped me open my mind.  I found that embracing new possibilities was actually more exciting than scary and that there was a whole world out there beyond the box of “straight.”


Being queer at Bates is very lonely.

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to build or connect to a queer community.  In a way it has not impacted other aspects of my college experience, like the activities I do or the classes I take, but on the other hand sometimes it makes me feel very isolated from other students like at overly heteronormative dances.  One positive impact is that being queer has led to my involvement in dialogues about differences and diversity that I might not have been as passionate about if I were straight.


My high school friend picked me to come out to because

I seemed so confident in my sexuality.  This made me realize the impact you can have on others just by being out and visible.  We talked at length a number of times and I found the best thing I could offer was support and use myself as an example that is ok to be out even though not everyone will accept it.  This experience taught me that part of mentoring is to listen and figure out what the person needs from you.  Some people just need someone to listen, some people need to hear other people’s stories and some people want to talk through specific concerns about how coming out will change their life and dynamics with family and friends.  Overall I learned that the most important thing about being a mentor is to make it clear that you are someone they can trust and that you take their journey seriously.


My advice is there is no right way to be queer.  Just because you like someone of the same gender does not mean you need to change other things about you to fit a stereotype. It is ok to not exactly know what you are. Labels are overrated and sexuality and gender are fluid.  Find what feels best for you and follow that.  Follow your heart and be open to taking things as they come.