Once upon a time, giving advice to homosexual college students was relatively easy. For the vast majority of old-school gays, college was the very first place they confronted the big, gay monkey on their backs, and guidelines were stark and simple: Be strong, be proud, and do your best to avoid alcoholism, suicide, and AIDS. These days, with gays and lesbians entrenched (with varying levels of contention) in the mainstream American milieu, more and more gay kids are undertaking the episodic drama of coming out in high school, even junior high--a thrilling fact of social evolution that renders the Gay College Experience both less intense and more intricate. But by adhering to a few key guidelines, homosexuals of all stripes and coming-out levels can avoid the mess and find success.

Making Friends

"I may be gay, but I'm not like the rest of those queers." If I had a dollar for every time this sentiment has been uttered by an otherwise sensible young gay person, I could have every Republican in America killed by the Russian mob. The fact is, no one is like "the rest of those queers," and forging friendships with other gays your age (every one of whom has spoken the above line at least once) can bring nothing but good. (Gay friends make great bedfellows.) The old forced-separation- to-avoid-detection stratagem employed by gay grade-schoolers should go out the window, and so can your lifelong habit of befriending only chubby members of the opposite sex. However, beware the gay ghetto: Restricting yourself to an all-gay social group stunts your growth and deprives the world at large of your unique gay self. For best results, supplement your core group of gay friends with straight guys (who traditionally know where the best parties are) and straight women (who are a blast to get trashed with).

Getting High

For many gays, the drugs and alcohol clogging the halls of every campus worth its salt provide a transcendent respite from the existential angst that has characterized the majority of their pre- collegiate lives. Getting to know your intoxicated self is an important part of the college experience, but be careful. Recreational drugs (marijuana, mushrooms, Robitussin) should be used recreationally; if you find yourself stoned and 'shrooming before a Tuesday-morning chemistry class, you've gone too far. Booze is trickier: Restricting yourself to noncompetitive consumption on evenings and weekends is a sound starting point. As for the trouble drugs (cocaine, heroin, crystal meth), these should be avoided by everyone for all time. [For more on this subject, please see Nate Lippens' excellent "Comprehensive User's Guide to Drugs" in this issue.]

Having Sex

I've said it before and I'll say it again: If science could harness the power of collegiate horniness, it would make nuclear weapons look like a baby's burp. This goes double for gay students--and triple for gay students who are male. Between other gay guys offering their lusty attentions and errant straight guys happy for a quick blow, most college fags are presented with the opportunity to have sex several times every day--a quintessential blessing/curse that demands sober strategizing. In addition to the ever-present HIV, there's a veritable blizzard of available STDs for today's sexual adventurer, from crabs and herpes to warts and syphilis. If you're planning on having sex with more than one primary partner (which, at this age, you probably should), choose your pool of potential partners most carefully. (Cafe popular with other young gays--good; chat-rooms or sex clubs filled with anonymous men with anonymous sexual histories whose only known trait is their sexual availability--not so good.)

Other than that, stick to basics: Condoms for fucking, selective sucking (check mouth for abrasions and dicks for pre-come), and no swallowing.

Going Out

Should you wish to explore your homosexuality off-campus, Seattle provides a slew of homosexual hot spots, from bookstores to bars. (However, gay women are still afforded only one exclusive option--Seattle's one and only lesbian bar, the Wildrose). For a guide to Seattle's gay places, check out the accompanying directory.

schmader@thestranger.com