Building Self Confidence and Safe Spaces

By Molly Foster ’19

Senior Trent Bauer’s dedication to academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities has led to numerous honors and substantial leadership positions during his undergraduate career at Ship. While Bauer cherishes the recognition he’s received for his efforts, that’s not what he considers his biggest accomplishment.

Surrounded by supportive Ship students and faculty, Bauer developed a newfound confidence. During his sophomore year, Bauer said he came out as gay.

“For years I was so afraid of what people would think about me if I came out. I was so hard on myself,” he said. “I didn’t realize the overwhelming support that I was actually surrounded by.”

While Bauer said he was hesitant to vocalize and take pride in his sexuality, the decision to do so became a blessing that multiplied as he began sharing bits of his struggle with other SU students who were in the same position.

Bauer attributes his altruism to his parents. He also found inspiration through his lifelong role model, Ellen DeGeneres, and her spirit of generosity. Because of his involvement on campus, he developed a close-knit support system and the confidence to value himself for the person he is—both critical factors in his decision to come out.

Ship recruited Bauer to play basketball, which he did through his sophomore year, then he decided to pursue a leadership role in student government. Bauer also participated in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Multi-cultural Student Affairs, and SU New Student Orientation. For his involvement and leadership at SU, he received the Outstanding Sophomore Award at the 2015 Student Life Awards.

Building off his success at Ship, Bauer focused on providing a voice and security to other LGBTQ students on campus. He believed that coming out as LGBTQ should not be a decision rooted in fear, and with that in mind, he proposed a plan for an LGBTQ resource center on campus.

“A resource center for the LGBTQ community is an idea that SU had for many years,” Bauer said. Serving as a pioneer in the LGBTQ resource center’s development, he has conducted surveys on campus to determine what resources SU needs. While the center is still in the developmental stage, what once was a mere idea has materialized into a not-so-distant reality because of Bauer’s efforts.

“Being someone who was questioning who they were as a person—both sexually and as a student—I want the center to be a safe place where students can go and feel like they belong.” Bauer compared the end product to the Women’s Center on campus, which works to advance gender equality through education and assists women who are victims of violence.

The LGBTQ resource center will provide an inclusive space to meet, along with guidance on LGBTQ-related matters and same-sex education, since it is typically bypassed in high school sex education. Similar to the outreach of the Women’s Center, the LGBTQ resource center will focus on the needs of LGBTQ students at SU, but will be a resource that the entire campus community can use.

“The center will also be able to help all students who may have questions like how to deal with a gay roommate or even parents who want to know how to bring up sexuality with their child,” he said.

One of Bauer’s friends wanted to highlight the positive work he’s accomplished. She wrote a letter to Bauer’s role model detailing the charitable work he has done for the LGBTQ community at Ship. While attending a recording of the Ellen DeGeneres Show in October, DeGeneres recognized Bauer’s generosity toward the LGBTQ community when she invited Bauer on stage to award him $10,000. Touched by his endeavors, DeGeneres presented the hefty check as a part of the One Million Acts of Good project.

“It’s actually kind of funny,” Bauer said. “I completely blacked out what was happening. Being in the same room as someone you looked up to your whole life and having them recognize you, it was definitely a life changing experience to say the least.”

Bauer will use part of the money DeGeneres presented him to pay off his student bills, and the rest he will invest into creating an LGBTQ scholarship at SU.

Since his appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Bauer has received words of encouragement via social media from people around the globe. He now realizes that what he is doing matters and is progressively making a positive impact on the larger LGBTQ community.

“There are so many supportive people out there,” he said. “I have received 2,100 messages on social media thanking me for what I am doing.”

After graduating from SU in the spring, Bauer said he will look into graduate schools. He plans to stay involved in the center’s development in whatever way he can and continue to make strides toward a lasting impact on the LGBTQ community.

“I really hope that this shows if any student is passionate about something, to pursue it wholeheartedly. If you want to see something change, change it.”

Molly Foster ’19 is an intern for SU Magazine.