Your kid has come out to you as gay* or trans*.
Congratulations on giving them the space and confidence to express themselves to you! Now they’re applying to college, and you want to make sure they’re safe, supported, and have space to explore their identity. How can you make sure your child’s sexual orientation and gender identity will be celebrated on campus?
Here are 6 school selection tips for LGBTQ+ college students and their parents. Look for colleges with:
- LGBTQ+ student organizations and events
- Campus-sponsored LGBTQ+ events and leadership
- Housing and bathrooms as safe spaces
- Adequate student health services
- Inclusive institutional policies
- Gay-friendly language present on campus
1. Student organizations and events
Student groups are your most powerful allies. They build community on campus, create safe spaces, and give students a platform devoted solely to issues concerning their queer and trans identities. For students just coming out or those who have been out for years, such spaces and conversations are crucial for adjusting to college life.
When searching for schools, look for queer and trans student groups through Facebook and school websites and check out their activities. Do on-campus groups focus on support and community building, or are they more politically bent? If you have a chance to visit, see if you can meet up with a student leader to get a first-person perspective on queer and trans issues on campus.
2. Campus-sponsored events and leadership
Besides student groups, organized LGBTQ leadership speaks to the commitment of a university to inclusion and support of its queer and trans students, faculty and staff. Such leadership takes the form of community spaces, dedicated counselors, health care providers and more. Campus leaders have more power and sway than student groups and can provide support from within the institution itself – a distinction that can be critical for students facing issues like discrimination or changing their gender on educational forms.
Especially important are school-sponsored LGBTQ+ centers, such as the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services at Ithaca College. Such spaces host professionals with integrated knowledge about queer and trans issues on and off campus, and provide physical space for community building. Brown University also hosts the Renn Mentoring Program, which pairs out faculty and staff with interested (not necessarily out!) students in a mentoring relationship.
3. Housing and bathrooms as safe spaces
Especially for transgender applicants, look into the housing policies of schools you’re considering. Gender-inclusive or gender-neutral housing is often available for upper-class students (2nd, 3rd and 4th year) but can be hard to find for incoming freshmen. Check out Campus Pride’s list of schools that have gender-inclusive housing. If you have a chance to visit campus, look out or ask around for gender-neutral bathrooms as well.
4. Health services
Most students receive their physical and mental healthcare on campus during college, so sensitivity of such services to queer and trans students’ needs is essential. Healthcare concerns for young LGBTQ+ folks include sexual health, STIs and HIV/AIDS, mental health – especially depression and suicide – and substance abuse and body image. Trauma and crisis response services should also be available and queer and trans-supportive. For students who will receive health insurance on campus, check out Campus Pride’s list of colleges and universities that provide transition-related medical expenses.
5. Institutional policy
The option to self-identify gender and name on admission applications and/or post-enrollment forms is empowering and important for students questioning the gender they were designated at birth. In August of 2015, Campus Pride, along with many other LGTBQ+ groups urged the Common Application to add optional questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Campus Pride is once again a great resource to find out about such processes on campus; check the “LBGTQ Policy Inclusion” section in each school’s listing. Students considering religious institutions or single-gender colleges should look into the institutional culture of gender and queer-related policies.
6. Gay-friendly language
VISIBILITY is the clearest indicator of queer and trans friendliness on campus. If student organizations, campus leadership, health services and safe spaces are vocal about their presence on campus, your kid can find a place among them! Openness about queer and trans issues and identities means that your child can find space and people with whom to commune, and that their rights and needs on campus will be acknowledged and addressed.
To learn more about schools you and your child are interested in, Campus Pride’s School Index is your best resource. Search their database of 200+ LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities to learn about the various ways schools are committed to improving quality of life on campus for queer and trans students.
Plus, check out the Parents Project’s thoughts on the subject in this video from This Is a Show For Parents of Gay* Kids: Finding an LGBTQ-Friendly College.
Lastly, Everyone is Gay’s database of national resources for LGBTQ kids may be helpful in familiarizing yourself with resources outside your local area or state.
Making sure your LGBTQ+ kid is safe at a faraway place is an essential part of helping them find a college they love and are excited for. We at Admissionado hope this blog post makes things a little clearer and easier, and we’re here with the resources to help you and your child navigate this process. Please share any other resources that you’ve found helpful in the comments below. Happy searching!
Additional Resources For LGBTQ+ Students And Their Parents
- Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG): Committed to advancing equality and full societal affirmation of LGBTQ people through support, education, and advocacy.
- Lambda Legal: The nation’s oldest and largest legal organization working for the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS.
- The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students: The product of nearly 5,000 online interviews with LGBT students and 500 online interviews with faculty and staff from campuses across the country.
* Gay and trans here used as umbrella terms. “Gay” includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual and other queer identities; “trans” includes all transgender identities not limited to trans men and women, genderqueer, non-binary, intersex, two-spirit and anyone who experiences or expresses gender differently from the way it was designated to them at birth.
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