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Finding Community and Paying It Forward

Dane at Gender Equity Center table

Dane Snow, BBA ’16 –

When I started at Boise State, no one knew that I was gay. It was a secret that I kept entirely to myself.

When I was a junior, I started to come out to some of my family, namely my sister. I was nervous to tell my mom because I was afraid that it wouldn’t stay a secret for long. I was scared to tell my dad and brother, thinking there was a good chance that I would have to move out after.

I knew that I had to tell them at some point, but I had to get everything in order first. It was a very nerve-wracking process. I was alone, and I had to figure it all out by myself. I hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst.

I went to different departments on campus to see what I could get help with if the worst came to pass. I had campus housing lined up, figured out my parking situation in case I had to move to campus, learned about the general student emergency fund (which I later used to help pay for a back surgery), and got my financial aid squared away. In fact, one of the people in the financial aid office was incredibly supportive and helped with the process I was going through.

As I went to each department to try to get help, the very real possibility that I might get kicked out began to set in. I was fearful. It was very comforting to know that I had the support of the surrounding campus community.

Once everything was ready, I came out to my mom. She was very supportive. I was scared to come out to my dad and brother since their type of humor indicated a kind of hostility, and I thought they wouldn’t support me. My dad was actually the most supportive out of the whole family and very little changed with him. What did change was that he and my brother completely stopped saying the things that had previously worried me without me ever asking them to.

Even though I was fortunate enough to have a supportive family, other students may not be. It made me realize that there should be help on campus specifically for LGBT students who are going through similar situations. I contacted my advisor for the Pride Alliance (which I had joined after coming out) and they put me in contact with the Dean of Students and the Boise State Foundation.

Together, we created the Steven Nelson Memorial Fund, named in honor of a Boise State employee who was taken from us in a hate crime because he was gay. This fund exists to help students who face any hardship with the coming out process such as homelessness or unemployment.

In the last three years, we have raised over $30,000 toward the fund. Recently, a student applied to the fund and received financial assistance. This really made me realize that this is making a difference in students’ lives.

During this time, I was also the president of the Pride Alliance student organization where I was able to find a community. Though the attendance numbers varied each week, we always had a group of regulars who were committed to the club. I provided some training and helped them along, and they have been leading the club since I finished my studies. One of the best moments for me during my time as president was when one student had the courage to come out to her family because of the community that she found in the Pride Alliance.

I started as a student who was afraid to be open with anyone, and who was very uncertain about my future. Through the support and resources I found, I gained a community and a place to make an impact. I wanted to help other students, and I found a way to do it. I’ve also discovered my passion to start my own non-profit to help LGBT people in the Treasure Valley.