A number of first-year students have formed a group to support bisexual, gay and lesbian first-year students who are considering disclosing their sexual orientation.
Ten students began meeting biweekly last semester under the guidance of Hurlbut Hall proctor Mike J. Middleton '87, the designated advisor for first-year students on gay and bisexual issues.
Middleton said the group provides "an open and tolerant environment where students find a safe forum to talk and receive an emotional support."
Javier Romero III '95 said he founded the group, which so far has no name, to encourage first-years to come out and to socialize with fellow bisexual, gay and lesbian students in a confidential environment.
"We want this to be a first step for people who may be intimidated by the numbers of BGLSA [Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students Association]," said Romero, who is seeking formal recognition for the organization by the College.
Joel L. Derfner '95 said the group is not meant replace BGLSA, which is "more focused on politics," but intended to provide first-years with an accepting social environment.
"We view it not so much as an organization than as a group of friends who meet to catch up with each other, talk and watch movies," he said.
BGLSA co-chair Sandi L. Dubowski '92 said he looks forward to working with the group and wishes it had existed when he first came to the College.
"I think it's fantastic. I hope people will take advantage of it," Dubowski said. "It would have been real fun if I had it as a freshman."
Besides watching movies like Torch Song Trilogy and Parting Glances, which discuss the complexities of gay life, the group plans to cooperate with BGLSA in celebrating BGLAD (Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Awareness Days) in April.
One member said he hopes the group will expand its focus and take a more active role in encouraging first years to come out.
"The life of a gay student is tricky," said Adam D. Feldman '95. "There are few channels of support other than the BGLSA, and we would like to provide another resource."
"We want people to know that there are gay freshmen around and that they are not alone," he added.
Members said they are optimistic that more first-year students will disclose their sexual orientation at the group's meetings.
One prospective member said, "I am not out to the straight community, but I am to the gay community. I am glad that they established this group [and] I would feel more comfortable here [than in the BGLSA]."
Undaunted by the small student response, Romero said he is not "expecting miracles."
"I expect recognition, a little money and a couple of new members," Romero said.
Romero said he plans to continue the organization next year or to adapt it to the larger needs of Harvard's bisexual, gay, and lesbian community.
"Next year I will either continue to have a freshman group or try to turn it into a general smaller social BGLSA focused primarily on coming out," he said.