At the end of every student's high school career, every thought going through her mind is utterly consumed by the anticipation of college. You carefully craft a specific list, keeping in mind each and every element that you want to see at your future university. For most people, things like location, program strength, tuition costs and ranking are among the criteria they consider when choosing which college will be their new home come fall. However, a large portion of high school seniors have yet another benchmark to take into account when making this decision: is the campus LGBTQ+ friendly?
Leaving home for the first time is terrifying enough without contemplating whether or not your classmates and professors are going to accept you for who you are, or patronize you for your lifestyle. Although there is littler tolerance in society for discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, especially on college campuses, it doesn’t mean that the intolerance for the community does not exist. Since it is frowned upon by many to show prejudice against specific groups, most colleges don’t come right out and advertise that they have hostile or unfavorable feelings towards the LGBTQ+ community, therefore, it can be difficult to decipher which colleges are going to welcome you with open arms.
If an LGBTQ+ friendly campus is something that is on your checklist when it comes to choosing a college, these are the things to look out for when investigating potential universities.
1. There are active LGBTQ+ clubs and organizations on campus
A lot of universities have clubs or organizations that bring together people of the LGBTQ+ community. Mentorship programs, social clubs and support groups are all popular organizations that appear on many college campuses across the country and most of the time, these groups are open to all students, not only those in the LGBTQ+ community. This coming together of the entire campus is a great way to strengthen the acceptance and understanding the LGBTQ+ community and to help the LGBTQ+ students meet more people within their community. Additionally, with an increase in understanding and acceptance, hate and discrimination have a lesser chance of flourishing on campus.
Some schools even have physical spaces dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community and others groups of diversity on campus. Ian O’Kelly, a sophomore at George Washington University, says “one thing that's nice is that on my campus, we have a building for it,” referring to his school’s “diversity building.” Offering spaces like this to students allows them to have a safe space where they know they will be accepted and gives them a place to meet other people in their own community.
New York University is one school that is known for its acceptance and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. Jessica Ryder, a sophomore at NYU says “At my school we have a queer union, but also various smaller clubs under the umbrella of LGBTQ+ (a girls’ club for cis or trans girls to discuss problems that queer girls face, a boys’ club for similar issue, a trans club, etc). The union is accepting of all identities.” With a quick visit to the NYU website, information about these organizations is easily found. This is true for most all colleges; if they have LGBTQ+ clubs or organizations, you will be able to find it on their website. If a school offers these opportunities, it is safe to say that they are both supportive and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.
2. They offer gender-neutral housing and bathrooms
Even though parts of America are struggling with the idea of gender-neutrality where we pee, a lot of progressive colleges actually offer gender-neutral housing options AND gender-neutral bathrooms — imagine that! Schools like Gettysburg College, Brown University, and Harvard University all have gender-neutral housing options available to students who either feel that they don’t fit into the gender-norms of their biological gender or just feel they’d be more comfortable living with someone of the opposite gender.
In addition to allowing students to live freely and happily, many colleges now also allow all students to pee freely as well. The universities mentioned before, as well as many others, are beginning to add gender-neutral bathroom options on campus in order to ensure that every student feels comfortable. Information of gender-neutral housing and restrooms can be found on many universities websites as well as a number of other sources. For example, this website has a complete list of all of the colleges and universities in the U.S. that offer gender-neutral housing and restrooms on campus.
3. There are visible signs of LGBTQ+ pride on campus
It can be hard to get a true feel of a college just from researching online. During your college visits, pay close attention to whether or not you see any visible signs of LGBTQ+ pride. Seeing rainbow flags or flyers advertising LGBTQ+ events are some examples of positive signs of LGBTQ+ acceptance and pride on campus. “I remember seeing two people of the same gender holding hands one day on campus and it made me happy to see that they were able to be open about their sexuality on our campus,” says Madison Sokol, sophomore at the University of Florida.
As a prospective student, make sure to take a tour of all of the schools that you are seriously considering. It is always possible that a school’s website is misleading, so be sure to go there physically and see if all of its promises hold up true.
4. They offer classes focusing on LGBTQ+ studies
While many schools have classes, majors and minors about women’s studies, a number of colleges are now offering the same opportunities for LGBTQ+ studies. Seeing majors and minors offered in areas like “gender identity studies,” “queer studies,” “sexual diversity” and many other similar subjects, hint at an LGBTQ+ friendly faculty and overall campus.
5. Campus leaders are a part of the LGBTQ+ community
On a campus that does not openly accept people of the LGBTQ+ community, it will be much more difficult for them to rise into leadership positions and develop a voice that is to be heard. “My cohort leader is bi, my ASL (American Sign Language) teacher is a lesbian, the ASL department head is gay, and another professor I know is transgender. These are respected individuals who are open about their identities. I see this as a sign that the school as an institution respects these people and acknowledges that it is important to have diverse identities not only in the student body but in the staff.” says Jessica, sophomore at NYU. Knowing that prominent leaders on campus, as well as outstanding members of the faculty not only support, but are a part of, the LGBTQ+ community is a way to tell that the school respects the community and welcomes it on campus.
Although you will come across more personal information about professors and leaders once you are already enrolled, it is also possible to research this before hand. A lot of professors and other faculty members have listed that they are strongly involved in LGBTQ+ activism and other programs, proving their acceptance and appreciation for the community.
Whether you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or just a strong supporter of the acceptance of it, finding a school that is LGBTQ+ friendly can be imperative to your college experience. Finding a school that you are both happy and accepted at is a key component to thriving in the next chapter of your life. Before committing to a school, make sure to do plenty of research not only on the football team’s record or how strong their pre-med program is, but to also take into account the school’s values and tolerance for diversity.