Resources & Expert Advice forLGBTQ College Students
College is a time for learning and growth, not only on an academic level, but at the social level as well. Fitting in and feeling accepted is important to many college students. This is a particularly crucial issue for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) community. Although recent strides have been made in achieving acceptance and equal rights, the need for support, help and resources remains high. This guide provides information and resources for LGBTQ college students and anyone else devoted to the goal of LGBTQ acceptance and affirmation.
Meet the Expert
Gary Howell, Psy.D. is the Director of Practicum Training and Associate Professor at Argosy University, Tampa. Dr. Howell works with AU Tampa’s Campus Pride group to coordinate activities and community outreach.
LGBTQ College Student Resource Guide
The following resources are designed for LGBTQ students and anyone who supports them. From apps to campus organizations, there is help, assistance and encouragement there for the taking.
The primary focus is to provide support and encouragement to youth around the world, ensuring them that things will get better for those in the LGBTQ community.
Managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, stopbullying.gov provides information from several government agencies to inform and educate others about bullying.
A comprehensive online resource for LGBTQ youth seeking support on any number of potential LGBTQ issues, including crisis intervention and family counseling.
Provides a list of several phone numbers for LGBTQ for youth to call about issues or problems they may be facing.
One of the most prominent organizations devoted to preventing suicides for LGBTQ individuals aged 13-24.
Advances LBGTQ rights for college students through on-campus student leaders.
Provides a vast array of support to LGBTQ high school and college athletes. Resources include mentorship, conferences, blogs, panel discussions at schools and local school chapters.
Devoted to ending sexual violence against students through education and special programs.
A community LGBTQ civil rights organization that acts through grassroots education, support and advocacy efforts.
Works to create LGBT community centers around the country. These centers promote the civil rights of LGBT individuals.
Facilities LGBTQ youth and organizations in their communities so that LGBTQ youth can reach their full potential.
Works with the media to educate and promote LGBTQ issues to others to achieve equality.
Strives for equal rights and treatment of LGBTQ individuals. This is one of the largest LBGTQ civil rights organizations in the United States.
Started over 40 years ago, the National LGBTQ Task Force is the oldest LGBTQ advocacy group in the United States.
Exists to promote the health of all children, with special sections devoted to helping gay, lesbian and bisexual youth grow and learn more themselves.
Works in various ways to help LGBTQ youth across the nation lead and create safer schools and communities for LGBTQ individuals.
The Coalition provides informative articles about various topics that concern teens and young adults, such as health, education and LGBTQ issues.
A site created by teens to help educate fellow teens about sexual health, including sexually transmitted infections, relationships and sexual orientation.
A non-profit organization that provides support to LGBTQ youth, including a forum to share stories and ideas, tips on how to deal with parents, and creative outlets concerning LGBTQ issues.
Available for Android and iOS, GENDR is a social networking app that focuses primarily on the queer and gender variant community. GENDR is unique in that it recognizes gender identity can involve an entire spectrum and provides content specifically tailored to the queer and gender variant community.
Available for Android and iOS, Moovz is a free social networking app that caters specifically to members of the LGBT community. Moovz is one of the largest social networking communities to focus on LGBT users.
Focuses on children, young adults and their families as they adapt to life as a member of the LGBTQ community.
A media watchdog organization that seeks to ensure the media uses acceptable means for discussing and mentioning LGBT issues.
The largest LGBTQ civil rights organization in the United States, the Human Rights Campaign.
Sally Kohn, a political commentator for CNN who is also a lesbian, activist, and writer fighting for equal rights and other progressive issues.
The National Center for Transgender Equality, a social equality organization for advancing the rights and concerns of transgender individuals. The primary goal of this organization is to stop violence, hate and discrimination.
A social networking site devoted to individuals aged 13-24 who consider themselves members of the LGBTQ community. Users can find support, receive news updates on LGBTQ issues and connect with others.
The consortium aims to bring a safe learning environment to higher education so everyone, from students to school administrators, are treated equally.
An international database of laws that related to LGBTQ rights and issues. Laws such as same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination protections are compiled by users.
The GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders advocates proper legal action to achieve equality for those in the LGBTQ community.
Helps LGBTQ reach their professional and academic potential by offering financial assistance, community service training, mentorship and leadership training.
How to Recognize a LGBTQ-Friendly College
Many students are delighted to find an open-minded community when they enter college. However, not all colleges are as open-minded as others, and there are some schools where you’ll find few policies or protections for LGBTQ students in place. On the other hand, some are especially accommodating and welcoming to LGBTQ students. A school is LGBTQ-friendly when it has policies, programs and practices that specifically address LGBTQ student issues or concerns. Here are a few things to look for when choosing a college that is open and friendly to LGBTQ students.
Official Policy on Inclusion and Diversity
A school’s policy on inclusion and diversity that clearly includes LGTBQ students is a good indicator of a school’s commitment to treating LGBTQ students equally. One example is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender Center at Ohio University. This organization advances Ohio University’s commitment to diversity by creating the most accepting environment possible for students who identify as LGBTQ.
LGBTQ Students are a Protected Class
A school that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation or other LGBTQ “classification” represents the school’s official stance on the equal treatment of LGBTQ students. Clemson University is one school that includes sexual orientation as a protected class in its discrimination policy language, and was one of the earlier schools to add sexual orientation as a protected class.
Robust Campus Safety
A school with special training, policies and procedures for dealing with safety issues of LGBTQ students can include things such as a specific reporting procedure for LGBTQ motivated crimes, special training for campus safety officers and strong outreach to the student body. One such school that has tailored its campus safety protocols to account for the LGBTQ student body is Connecticut College. Specifically, Connecticut College has trained its officers on gender expression and sexual orientation issues and established a special procedure for reporting LGBTQ hate crimes.
Focused Student Services & Assistance
Practically all schools will have counseling and advising services available to its students. But does the school have counselors trained to handle the concerns, issues and problems of LGBTQ students? At American University, students can request an LGBTQ Peer Advisor to answer questions about life on campus and in the surrounding area.
This looks at how proactive a school is in addressing the needs and concerns of LGBTQ students. A school that sponsors public service programs providing information and education to the student body about LGBTQ issues are more likely to be friendly. Ohio State University is an excellent example of a school that has an LGBTQ initiatives, such as CORE, First Year Q*mmunity, Lead out Loud, Bi VisiBility Week and Queer Family HoliGay Dinner.
What kind of extracurricular activities, clubs and organizations are offered on campus? For example, Washington State University offers various LGBTQ oriented student organizations, such as the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Graduate Pride Alliance at Washington State and Broad Spectrum/Voice.
LGBQT Student Recruitment
This factor deals with the efforts a school makes to enroll LGBTQ students. This can include representation at LGBTQ college fairs, tailored scholarships and special mentoring programs for LGBTQ students, all of which exist at Ithaca College in New York.
The purpose of college is to learn, so institutions of higher education can become friendlier by offering coursework on LGBTQ issues and topics. For instance, at Tufts University, students can enroll in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program.
What steps has a school taken to accommodate LGBTQ students with respect to living arrangements? For example, Cornell University has the Trans Inclusive Housing Policy where students may opt to live on campus with anyone of their choice, regardless of biological sex, gender or gender identity.
Sports and Athletics
To keep athletic programs as inclusive as possible, some schools will have special programs or organizations established on campus. One such program is Athlete Ally, which sponsors campus ambassadors to promote acceptance of LGBTQ athletes in sports. Athlete Ally has ambassadors at more than 50 schools, including Duke University.
Concerns of LGBTQ College Students
College is one of the most exciting and stressful times for a young adult. However, a young adult who also identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community has additional stressors to worry about besides the usual issues with school and personal life. Here are some of the major concerns of LGBTQ college students.
Feeling Welcome and Accepted
Humans naturally want to be welcome and accepted when entering a new environment. Colleges and universities are making progress in not just advocating that LGBTQ students must be treated the same, but in taking steps to help them feel welcomed. Programs and policies such as gender inclusive bathrooms, Safe Zones, LGBTQ tailored scholarships, Rainbow or Lavender graduation ceremonies and active recruiting efforts are designed to attract LGBTQ students.
Deciding Whether to Come Out
Many LGBTQ students come out during college, a time when they explore and learn about their own sexual and gender identities. This can be a monumental step in growth and maturity. However, to take this step, the person must feel safe and secure enough to reveal to the world, or just a few close friends and family, that they are a member of the LGBTQ community. This comfort comes from a variety of factors, such as the school atmosphere, family relationships, class peers and support available from the school in which they are enrolled. Many schools have taken steps to create a more inclusive environment.
According to Do Something, a sobering 60% of LGBT students claim to feel unsafe at school as a result of their LGBT status. This can sometimes lead to social isolation, or at least a social life that is far less active than they would like. And this is the best-case scenario. In a worst-case scenario, an LGBTQ student may fear for their safety. A good number of schools has tried to combat this possibility by establishing LGBTQ-themed housing areas and allowing students to choose any roommate, regardless of gender identity.
From non-physical forms of bullying to criminal physical assault, LGBTQ college students must be cognizant of who might want to cause them harm. More LGBTQ friendly schools have taken steps to identify and effectively handle LGBTQ motivated offenses, such as special LGBTQ training for campus police. But no policy will be able to protect all students all the time, nor do so with immediate effect. And in light of the shifting tide of less inclusive sentiment among the general population as evidenced by the 2016 presidential election, LGBTQ students are understandably concerned over whether they will be safe from harm while away at school.
Stress, Depression & Anxiety
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a member of the LGBTQ community is almost three times more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety. Worrying about whether to come out (and if not coming out, the fear of being “outed”), fear of oppression and dealing with potential discrimination all contribute to added stress, anxiety and depression for LGBTQ college students. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LGBTQ high school students were twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers. To address the higher risk LGBTQ students, many schools have counselors specially trained to handle LGBTQ issues and concerns.
The Campus Pride Index is a special metric developed by Campus Pride to quantify the more LGBTQ friendly colleges and Universities. The goal of the Campus Pride Index is to make it easier for prospective students to find LGBTQ friendly schools, as well as identify schools that are well on their way to LGBTQ inclusion or need extra help.
Participation is optional, so not every school will be represented in the Index. Of the schools that agree to an LGBTQ assessment, an overall score is provided, with five stars the highest possible rating. Each score is further broken down on individual LGBTQ factors.
College Campus LGBTQ-Friendly Spotlight/Feature
Princeton University is particularly LGBTQ friendly, in part because of its LGBT Center. The LGBT Center engages in an array of initiatives and events specifically for LGBTQ students, as well as for the education of the student body. One notable program is Q’nnections, Princeton University’s mentorship program for LGBTQ students. Students at Princeton can also participate in #Woke101, a semester long workshop that addresses racial, gender and sexual oppression.
The University of Louisville offers a plethora of resources and has taken a variety of steps to become as inclusive as possible. For instance, the University of Louisville’s LGBT Center has two offices for easy of student accessibility. Besides ease of access, the LGBT Center helps sponsor PRIDE Week, Lavender Graduation and a LGBT-themed study abroad program. The nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. There are many gender inclusive bathrooms around campus and a special Bias Response Team to address incidents and problems that challenge the goal of diversity and inclusiveness.
The University of Washington not only scored a five out of five overall score, but in seven out of eight LGBTQ subcategories, the school scored a perfect five out of five. LGBTQ students are encouraged to study abroad and receive information concerning countries that are less open than the United States with respect to the LGBTQ community. The University of Washington’s Q Center is a student-run organization that helps not just students, but faculty, staff and alumni with respect to LGBTQ advocacy, education and support. Those who want to dive into research on LGBTQ topics can do so at the campus library, where there is a special section devoted to Gay and Lesbian Studies and research topics.
Expert Advice for
LGBTQ Students, Friends & Family
Some of the most pressing concerns for LGBTQ students revolve around general safety and affirming educational environments. Sexual and gender minority students are often faced with hostile learning environments where bullying and teasing are common to their early education experiences, which can complicate similar struggles at the undergraduate and graduate levels of education. By the time sexual and gender minority students enter their undergraduate and/or graduate school years, the bullying often shifts to more subtle forms of oppression and discrimination.
For those students with intersecting identities (e.g., Latina, transgender female or a Muslim, gay male) there are multiple aspects of their identity that may be targets for discrimination or prejudice. Being left out or excluded from social groups on campus is common and a form of relational aggression.
Transgender students are often disproportionately impacted by negative experiences, especially when it comes to affirming schools, faculty, and learning environments (i.e., no gender-neutral washrooms or options for affirming campus housing). At the college level, sexual and gender minority students often scan their faculty support systems to assess their ability to be out and live authentically. If advisors or faculty do not create safe spaces for LGBTQ students, the likelihood of increased levels of stress, anxiety, depression, or even suicide is possible. When schools lack LGBTQ faculty, it is imperative there be allies to support students through their academic careers.