You’ve seen it in all of its rainbow glory in brochures, on the school website and at the student resource fair: Your campus’s LGBTQ+ resource center. It’s your one-stop shop on campus for everything that screams, “I’m here and I’m queer,” and you plan on taking advantage of everything it has to offer you.
But there’s one teensy thing that you’re wondering: What do they actually have to offer?
Let us explain to you all of the wonderful things that this campus community can provide for you—whether you’re queer or an ally!
1. Internship and work opportunities
Like many other departments on college campuses, LGBTQ+ resource centers are nothing without their student workers and volunteers. Many hire several students every year to help keep the place running smoothly and effectively. Available to any student regardless of their gender identity or sexuality, these opportunities will look fantastic on anyone’s resume. Penn State has seven different internship positions available at their LGBTA Resource Center, each one full of opportunities to expand your resume.
You may have the opportunity to get work study or academic credit for similar positions at your school. With internships specializing in community outreach, event programming, marketing and more, this is the perfect way to build up essential skills, no matter what career you want to go into. Skip the icky job serving food at the dining hall and gain some real leadership experience by working at your campus’s LGBTQ+ resource center!
2. Peer mentor programs
The resource center is chock-full of people ranging from professional staff members to wise upperclassmen who are willing to pass on their wisdom to younger, inexperienced collegiettes. Mentors in any community are beyond helpful in order to help you avoid the typical freshman mistake and sympathize with whatever queer-girl struggles you might be going through (#femmeprobs, anyone?).
Some campuses even have formal peer mentor programs where you can apply to be a mentee or mentor and the campus center will pair you with another person who, based on your application, is your perfect match. Want to be a mentor but not sure if you have the right skills? Not a problem at campuses like the University of Houston! UH’s aspiring peer mentors receive training on how to be the perfect role models for their mentees. This type of training can include appropriate and specific ways you can empower your mentee, ways you can help them reach whatever goals they may have and ways to communicate with them effectively.
3. On-campus ally training
With so many campuses filled with people from diverse backgrounds, not all students and staff know what it truly means to foster a safe space or be advocates for LGBTQ+ people. Fortunately, many resource centers provide ally training in order for campus professionals and other aspiring allies to learn how to effectively provide support and build community with the community. The training teaches people how to reflect on the privileges they may have and be proactive in disrupting homophobic acts.
At the end of the training, the professionals and students will typically receive a certificate or sign saying they have completed the training, which they put on the door outside of their offices or dorms. This is to signal to the rest of the campus that they are safe, effective allies who are not only equipped with the tools to handle incidents of bias, but who are also accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. Many times this training is available upon request to any community on campus, such as entire dorms or student organizations.
4. Health resources
As we all know by now, buying condoms and other supplies for safe sex on a consistent basis can get pretty pricey after a while. While the investment is totally worth it in the long run, it can wear a collegiette’s budget down pretty quickly.
However, have no fear! LGBTQ+ campus resource centers will typically carry a wide array of free condoms, dental dams, lube and anything else you need to have a consensual, safe and sexy time with your partner. Some campus centers also sponsor free and anonymous HIV and STI testing occasionally throughout the year.
5. Off-campus resource recommendations
If your campus’s LGBTQ+ community is too small for your liking, it can get pretty redundant. You’re seeing the same faces, doing the same programming and hanging out in the same places. Snooze fest, or nah?
However, people at your campus’s LGBTQ+ resource center can probably direct you towards some community centers that would be great for you to get involved in. Don’t live in the city, but still have one that’s close enough? Grab a group of your favorite queer besties and hit the road for a weekend trip! The people at your LGBTQ+ campus center are sure to have the network to make sure you find all the support you need in your surrounding area.
6. A resource library
Whether you’re looking for a book assigned to you by your new LGBTQ+ studies professor or you just ran out of queer-friendly shows to watch on Netflix, this side of campus will have you covered. Most LGBTQ+ campus centers will have all of the LGBTQ+ books, magazines and DVDs your little heart desires.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has everything from LGBTQ+ graphic novels to health resources in their LGBT Campus Center library. By using your student ID card, a simple swipe is all that’s needed to get whatever materials you need from the bookshelf.
7. Discussion groups
We know that you are so much more than your sexuality or gender identity. Discussion groups are a great way to talk about your intersecting identities with other peers who can understand where you’re coming from.
Northwestern University, provides five different discussion groups that address everything from queer people of color to LGBTQ+-identified people who are involved in Greek life. The best part about discussion groups is that they are safe spaces, and whatever is discussed there stays there. It’s a way for you to get out all your frustrations without having to worry about your scandalous drama getting out to the whole campus.
Coming to terms with being LGBTQ+ and all the stresses that can come with it can be a lot for one collegiette to handle by herself. Whether it’s worrying about coming out to your parents or just coming out to yourself, sometimes you can use a bit of professional help.
The University of California, Los Angeles’s LGBT Campus Resource Center provides counselors in residence for drop-in visits a few days out of the week in addition to a counselor who specifically caters to those who have experienced any type of sexual assault or dating violence. Many other campus resource centers either have similar services or can direct you to counselors on campus who can cater to your specific needs.
9. New friends in a safe space
When you’re new to campus or even just new to the LGBTQ+ community, you might be looking for a place with people waiting to welcome you for exactly who you are. One of the main priorities of most LGBTQ+ resource centers is to help foster a safe space and a community. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, they want you to feel protected. Many campus centers have a variety of different movie nights, game nights and study parties throughout the semester in order to build community and bring people together. These are great ways to connect with new friends!
It can be hard to find your niche on campus, especially when you feel like you might not belong. But this is why your school’s LGBTQ+ resource center can be the perfect location for you to feel comfortable. Whether you’re a queer or trans* collegiette trying to navigate your way through your identity (and college life) or you’re an ally who’s trying to help make campus a better place for your peers, the your campus’s LGBTQ+ center is definitely where you should be spending your free time!