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Is Your College LGBT-Friendly? How to Tell

Feb 23, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Not every college is as accepting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students as it could be. And some colleges claim acceptance—but stop short of encouraging LGBT activities, clubs, and academic studies. Still, at many colleges there is a strong LGBT presence—that plays a large part in the college’s culture as a whole.

If you identify as part of the LGBT community, you have to gauge how accepting your college will be of you—in addition to whether it has the right programs, reputation, class sizes, activities, foreign exchange opportunities, internship opportunities, financial aid package, and a whole host of other things that go into making a choice between colleges. Here are a few questions to ask that will help you determine whether the college you want to attend is LGBT-friendly.

Nondiscrimination policy that addresses LGBT need

Most schools have a nondiscrimination policy. But does your school directly address the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students? If they do, it shows they’re aware of the issues and won’t tolerate discrimination or abusive behavior on campus. If they don’t mention sexual orientation, it may be a bad sign.

Gay Men Holding Hands with Rainbow Bracelets

With some research and some time spent talking to students as well as administrators, you should be able to find the right college for you.

Majors and areas of study in gender

Does your school offer classes that speak to LGBT interests? Does the English department offer classes on gay and lesbian themes and authors? Does the History department offer classes on queer studies in history? Is there a gender studies department or major? If your college offers LGBT-themed classes, chances are the administration is gay-friendly and many students and professors are, too.

Groups and activities geared to LGBT students

Is there an active Gay Student Association? Are there LGBT-themed events and groups throughout campus? How high is membership? What’s the turnout like for events sponsored by LGBT-themed groups? How supportive is the straight student community of gay-themed activities and groups? These are all questions you can ask admissions representatives before you enroll.

Support services for LGBT students

Schools that support LGBT students often provide social groups and opportunities, counseling services, legal assistance, networking groups, and other support services geared specifically toward LGBT students. Talk to your admissions counselor about this. If they can tell you a lot, it’s a sign that LGBT rights are important at this college. If they don’t have much information to give you, it may be a bad sign about the college’s priorities.

Gender-neutral student housing

For many LGBT students, and particularly if you’re a trans guy or girl, gender-specific housing—and even bathrooms—can sometimes cause problems. If there’s a gender-neutral housing option on campus, this may be a good sign that the campus is committed to meeting the needs of LGBT students.

A feeling of openness on campus

For LGBT students, it’s especially important to visit a college before making an admissions decision. When you visit, look around. Do you see same-sex couples openly together on campus? Is there a strong queer presence? Does it look like LGBT students are open and comfortable about who they are here? The type of vibe you get about the campus in your visit could say a lot about what life is like here for LGBT students throughout the year.

Location in a tolerant region

Let’s face it—not every state and city is as tolerant as every other. If you’re attending college in a state or city that has stood out recently in local or nationwide LGBT political battles, that can give you at least a clue as to where many of the student body will stand in terms of gay rights. This isn’t a guarantee, however—and some colleges may surprise you by going against the prevailing political climate in their area.

It’s never easy to pick the right college. And lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students have to consider whether the college they choose is supportive to LGBT students and issues—as well as offering all the other things they want and need in a college. With some research and some time spent talking to students as well as administrators, you should be able to find the right college for you.


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