Coming out on a college campus can be tough for many students. The fear of rejection and the idea that the people they love and care about may no longer feel the same about them are all thoughts that can fill the heads of any person considering coming out. Shane Windmeyer, author, public speaker and founder of Campus Pride took his coming out experience to make sure that no one in the LGBT community feels a lack of support or safety on their campus.
Campus pride is a national non profit organization that strives to create a safer environment on college campuses for LGBT students. Windmeyer came out to his fraternity brothers in his junior year at Emporia State University in Kansas.
“I thought they would kick me out the fraternity, I thought that they would reject me,” said Windmeyer. Despite his thoughts, his fraternity brothers accepted him with open arms. “Luckily for me, my fraternity was more then just a party frat, it was about an actual brotherhood, so they were very supportive.” he said.
The reaction from his mother was stark in comparison to the reaction he had received on his campus. “That Christmas I decided to tell my mother, and she didn’t take it well. She even told me not to tell my father,” said Windmeyer.
Growing up in Hiawatha, Kansas with a graduating class of 90 students, it was small town living for Windmeyer. Due to the limited information on what it really meant to be gay, he credits his mother’s reaction to the lack of resources. “My mother had never known a gay person, and never understood what it meant to be gay, she based everything she knew on the negative things she heard about gay people,” said Windmeyer.
Despite the lack of support from his mother, he received approval from an unlikely source, his grandmother. “I valued the relationship I had with my grandmother, because even though she was from an older generation, she was still very supportive and caring,” said Windmeyer.
His grandmother passed away around the time he came out, and one thing he discussed with her before her passing was his wish to find that special person to spend the rest of his life with. A year after her passing, Windmeyer met his now husband Tommy in July 1995.
“We met at a club, you know just like how straight people do it,” he explained jokingly. In 2005, he and his husband decided to have a wedding ceremony, despite the fact that gay marriage wasn’t legal in North Carolina at that time. The two had not planned on doing a ceremony since it wouldn’t be a legal union, but when Windmeyer’s father was hit and killed by a drunk driver in 2003, he instantly changed his mind.
“I saw how the death of my father impacted my mother, but she held on to those special times, and the memories” he said. In seeing how those special moments made his mother smile, he wanted to make his own memories as well. On July 22, 2012, Windmeyer and his husband celebrated 17 years together.
Windmeyer has written over ten books and traveled nationwide speaking about LGBT issues, with one goal in mind: to make sure that college campuses across the nation offer a safe environment for the LGBT community.
Windmeyer gave one bit of advice to those students that fear coming out while in college. “Even if you feel like you have no one who cares about you, reach out to the community, even Campus Pride and know that there are people out there that love and care about you and will accept you for who you are.”
Photo Credit: Katie Simmons-Barth