Q: Are the Counselling Services on campus a good resource for talking about my confusion around my sexuality? My concerns center around whether some of the counsellors will be uncomfortable talking about that.
Hello and thanks for reaching out to us!
Firstly, I’m so glad that you asked this question because it brings attention to the fact that accessing support in a meaningful way can be made more complicated for those who are queer or questioning. Accessing counseling services can be a great form of support, but for folks in the LGBT*Q community, finding a counselor who will be comfortable discussing issues related to sexual identity and expression is a legitimate and appreciable concern.
From your question, it sounds like you’re in a place where you’re open to pursuing counseling as an option for receiving support, but also feel worried that you could face rejection or be misunderstood by a counselor you’re connected with. This is definitely a valid concern, and as I mentioned earlier can often be a barrier for folks to access the support they need. I’m really glad to hear that you’re reaching out for help (both through counseling and through OUTline) as it shows that you’re taking initiative in your well-being. This is great!
I’m happy to report that the counselors on campus are queer-friendly and would be happy to connect with you to offer their support. Through connections with various student support services on campus, I’ve heard truly fabulous things about counselor Suzanne Welstead (http://www.suzannewelstead.com/). After following up with their intake team and Suzanne personally, I can definitely say she sounds like a positively wonderful person to support questioning students. Suzanne identifies as a lesbian and has been helping students in a similar position to yourself for almost fourteen years at the University of Guelph. When I reached out to her in writing this response I discovered that she welcomes the opportunity to work with members of the queer and questioning community. You can find her on campus every weekday except for Wednesdays and she is also available for walk-ins on a rotating schedule with other counselors in the office, in addition to her regular bookable hours.
So what to do if you feel like booking an appointment? The first step would be to contact counseling services (https://www.uoguelph.ca/counselling/), on the south side of the third floor in the UC. You can contact them on the phone at 519-824-4120 (ext 53244) or you can feel free to drop in personally to meet with their team. They’re available Monday-Friday, 8:15am-4:15pm, and would be happy to help. You can either ask for Suzanne, or you can access support through any of the other counselors (https://www.uoguelph.ca/counselling/staff-directory) currently working on campus. Remember, counseling services are completely covered by your tuition fees, so you won’t have to drop a penny to speak with someone. Suzanne let me know that she’s currently booked up until the last week of March, BUT as she does offer walk-ins you can check in with reception to find out the next time she’ll be available without an appointment (definitely book something for her first available appointment so that you have that as well!).
In the meantime, or even between appointments that you can arrange with a counselor, keep in mind that our campus offers plenty of other forms of support for students just like yourself. One amazing resource to check out is CampOut (http://www.uoguelph.ca/~campout/CampOUT/Who_We_Are.html), which is designed as a support group for LGBT*Q students (especially those questioning or those who have yet to come out). They meet in a private and safe space (communicated to attendees via email), with meetings being casually structured around discussion topics that interest the group. You’re welcome to participate as much or as little as you like in each meeting, and generally they offer a great way to reach out and connect with other members of the community. Why not give them a shout today by sending them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org? They’d be happy to hear from you. And speaking of people who would be happy to hear from you, don’t forget about OUTline (http://www.uoguelph.ca/~outline/)! OUTline is run by a staff of wonderful student volunteers who all identify within the queer community and who would be oh so happy to connect with you over the phone at 519-836-4550. We’re available throughout the semester, Monday 3:30 – 6:00 pm, Wednesday 6:00 – 9:00 pm, and Friday 1:00-3:00 pm.
Thanks again for reaching out to us and for your fabulous question. I certainly hope that this has been helpful for you. Everyone here at OUTline is thrilled that you’re looking for support and wish you nothing but the best on your journey. We’d love to hear from you to hear how things are going, and to follow up on any other questions you may have.