UCF student featured on MTV’s It Gets Better series
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 14:10
On Tuesday, MTV aired its second installment of the It Gets Better series, a show created to help young people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. This week’s episode featured three teenagers dealing with the difficult task of “coming out” to their friends and family. One of those teenagers was UCF freshman Hunter Fromm, who recently told his family he is gay.
The 18-year-old allowed MTV cameras to follow him as he prepared to leave home and head to college where he moved into a dorm with three other students who are all heterosexual. The cameras were around when issues between Fromm and his father, a police officer, turned into difficult conversation.
“We butted heads on the gay issue,” Fromm’s father said on the show. “We worry about him rooming with other guys.”
After Fromm moved into his dorm, he sat with his roommates in the Student Union and told them he was gay. None of the roommates seemed concerned with his sexuality and they all said they were OK with continuing to be his roommate.
Not all young people who come out to their friends are shown the same respect or support that Fromm’s roommates displayed.
Dan Savage, who visited UCF last year to film MTV’s Savage U, co-founded the It Gets Better Project with his husband, Terry Miller, in response to the 2010 increase in suicides among young homosexuals.
“I’m hoping that most LGBT college students already have that love and support in their lives and that they aren’t being bullied and that they don’t really need the IGBP. But for those college-age LGBT students who do need it, I hope it’s given them a vision for their own futures that’s positive,” Savage said in an interview with the Central Florida Future during his campus visit.
David Moran, graduate coordinator of LGBTQ Services, describes the increase in suicides as an epidemic that has been going on much longer than the recent media coverage shows.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are five times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. However, a study published in the Pediatrics journal last year showed that teenagers being raised in supportive environments were less likely to attempt to harm themselves. According to the study, the risk for teenagers attempting suicide was 20 percent greater in unsupportive environments compared to supportive environments.
“On a whim, Dan Savage, who is well known for his columns, did this video and it went viral. Since then, a lot of people have posted videos including prominent people like Lea Michele who plays Rachel on Glee and Hillary Clinton, former first lady and secretary of state, as well as President Obama himself,” Moran said. “[People] all across the spectrum of life experiences have engaged in this experiment.”
Since its inception, the project’s website has accumulated 538,463 videos of people showing their support for the LGBTQ community. The first installment of the show aired in February and reached more than 25,000 viewers online.
Fromm said that the best part about being part of the show was having the chance to share his story and inspire others to not be afraid of being who they really are.
“While coming out isn’t an easy experience, it’s beneficial to anyone who is closeted,” Fromm said. “You have to be comfortable. When you are comfortable with your sexuality, it isn’t easy, but it becomes necessary [to come out].”
Moran, who is an openly homosexual male, agrees.
“It’s about getting to a point of self-acceptance and the ability to persevere in spite of whatever obstacles you may face," Moran said. “There are always options and there are always choices.”
The UCF Counseling Center offers free individual counseling for students and currently hosts two support groups for students in the LGBTQ community. Fromm is actively involved with the on-campus registered student organization Equal. Equal’s mission, according to its Facebook page, is “to provide a safe environment for students … and [help them] develop personal character without fear of discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
Fromm chose to attend UCF rather than stay in Palm Coast with his family, because he knew that being in a more metropolitan area would be easier and figured the students would be more open minded. He says that his peers are accepting of his lifestyle and he hasn’t had any issues with people on campus bullying him.
“I definitely admire individuals like Hunter who are comfortable with being out and being visible. I didn’t come out until I was 21 and about to graduate college,” Moran said.