Resources for LGBTQIA+ College Students
There are a wide range of factors to take into consideration when searching for the best college for you.
There are academic factors— major programs, technical certifications, professors, departments. There are social factors, the size of the school, the location. There are financial aspects, which many students often claim are the most influential factors in making their college decision.
For students in the LGBTQ+ community, the transition from high school to college can be both particularly exciting and nerve wracking. Some queer students may feel excited to find their community for the first time.
Others may feel anxious to leave their established community behind for uncharted territories. Most students feel a combination of both enthusiasm and nerves. Don’t worry, these feelings are entirely normal!
This blog post will cover some of the resources queer students can keep an eye out for during the college search process, as well as some resources you can ask about once on campus at your university.
Social resources are usually the easiest to find when exploring a college campus. Many universities have LGBTQ+ Student Associations, Gay–Straight Alliances, or Pride Collectives. You can search for these groups on social media, such as Instagram or Facebook.
You can also navigate to the university website and find the clubs and social engagement page, where lists of clubs and non–academic groups are usually listed. The organization may not always contain the words LGBT or Gay, so some other key words to search for in the list are queer, pride, rainbow, diversity, and spectrum.
If you discover there is a queer students association on campus, or even multiple, a good next step would be to see how active the group is. This can include checking a calendar for university events, if you can find one, or scrolling through the club’s social media to see how often it is updated.
I have found that many clubs have a social media manager, and they’re often happy to chat with students about their organization and other resources available on campus, so never be afraid to send a message in their direction!
Many students are absolutely willing to help new, incoming and prospective students, especially with a shared identity or social group. And there’s no better way to determine the vibe of a university than to speak to students who have been there for a little while.
If you cannot find an LGBTQ+ students organization, do not panic! That does not automatically mean a school is not friendly or accepting. There are a lot of reasons a school may not have a queer students alliance.
The student body could be very small, leading to a reduced number of clubs. There could be a pride group hosted by another university, or a nearby library or LGBTQ+ center, that is expansive enough that students choose to attend there.
It’s possible the organization may not have established an online presence. Or, in some cases, it could be as simple as nobody has thought to create one yet.
If this is the case, it could be a great opportunity for you to flex your leadership muscles and establish a queer students organization of your own. Chances are you’ll find other queer students, or even supportive allies, throughout the process.
Aside from clubs dedicated specifically to kinship amongst queer students, it is very probable you will find queer students within most social groups on campus. Some are more likely than others— for example, some universities have Drag Queen, Drag King, or just general drag clubs.
These clubs are great places to find people who are interested in exploring gender and identity, as well as performing and opening up conversations. Mental health organizations are often a welcoming place for all and promote connecting people of all identities and building safe spaces. Creative groups such as poetry clubs, theater, and visual arts are all great places to explore self expression and connection.
Beyond student groups, many universities have LGBTQ+ student centers, mental health services (crisis hotlines, group therapy, etc), and queer libraries or academic consortiums. If you are interested in exploring those resources, a good place to start would be the university website.
If your school has an office dedicated to helping new and transfer students, they could be a good place to reach out and ask about university–sponsored queer initiatives. If you’re interested in the library specifically, most university library websites offer a portal to get in touch with university librarians who may be able to assist you with finding queer resources within the library.
Mackenzie, a sophomore at Stony Brook University, says that during their college search they looked for whether SBU had made statements regarding issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community, as well as whether they acknowledged pride month or used university social media to promote pride events on campus. This can be a smart way to see if support for queer students on campus goes beyond student–led organizations and is promoted by university administration.
Social resources can extend beyond a university’s physical campus and into the surrounding area. As stated before, libraries are usually hubs of community socialization and student friendly events.
Other good places to search for pride events are community and youth centers, parks, theaters, and independent shops and small businesses. Depending on the location of the university, churches and other faith based organizations may or may not have LGBTQ+ services available. It is always a good idea to check online or read a bulletin in advance.
If your college is located in a smaller town, it’s probable that most pride events will take place on campus, as colleges tend to be the hosting location for many large community events. If there’s another, larger university located nearby; you can search for pride events happening on their campus.
Usually student events will accept students from neighboring universities as well (though I recommend checking in advance). If your campus is in a big city or has easy transportation to a big city (such as the Stony Brook train to New York City), it’s worthwhile to explore and search for pride events in the city near you.
There are lots of fun events out there, and once you begin to expand your community, even more will become available to you. Don’t be afraid to break out of your comfort zone! Now is the time to explore.
Just remember to always explore in a safe fashion, whether it’s utilizing the buddy system or making sure someone you trust has your location.
Residential and Safety Resources
Gendered housing and assigned roommates can cause anxiety for some queer students. Some common concerns are that their gender is outside the housing binary, being stuck with a homophobic roommate, or not having a safe space to transition and are worried about being placed in a dorm that doesn’t fit their gender identity.
In dealing with these concerns, first check out the residential and housing website of the university you’re interested in. Some universities offer opt–in mixed gender dorming, which is popular with LGBTQ+ students.
Some universities even have dormitory halls that historically are more popular with queer students and continue to serve mainly queer students to this day. If you’re interested in meeting more people in the queer community, this could be a good place to try to room.
Many bathrooms in dorm buildings are already mixed gender, but it is always a good idea to search for a map of bathrooms across campus. While many universities are implementing gender neutral bathrooms in more locations, some still have mainly gendered bathrooms, so it’s always smart to note which are where.
If homophobia or transphobia does become an issue with a roommate or someone living in the dorm halls, the first thing to do would be to contact an RA (resident assistant). RAs are students who are trained to help solve issues like these as well as other issues that may arise from campus living.
If an RA is unable to help, they may notify a staff member who can assist with the situation. Most roommate quarrels are solved in this manner, but if there is a serious issue you feel poses a threat to your safety and wellbeing as a queer person, there may be a room change.
Regarding safety, it’s a good idea to check your university’s policy on hate crimes. Most universities are quick at addressing potential hate fueled issues, but some have a poorer reputation at responding to hate crimes and other threats.
Look into a university’s security and police system. You may want to take it a step further and see if there’s any history of hate motivated crimes or harassment occurring on campus.
This is another instance in which it would be good to reach out to a current student, especially if you’re already in contact with a queer students alliance, and ask about how safe they feel on campus. It is possible that there could have been instances of hate on campus that are not available to find online, whether from a lack of attention or the university sweeping it under the rug.
It is also important to find out, in the rare but unfortunate instance you witness a hate crime on campus, where it should be reported. Is there a system in place for the university police? Is there a special office dedicated to hate based offenses, or can the LGBTQ+ center help?
Your safety is paramount, and if you have any concern about the possibility of hate based offenses on campus, you should be prepared and knowledgeable on how to proceed.
Health and Athletic Resources
More and more universities are beginning to offer mental health resources for students, which is a promising step for the future. When exploring a university’s mental health resources, some questions you might like to ask are:
- “Are any of the counselors available trained in LGBTQ+ issues?”
- “Do I have guaranteed confidentiality in therapy sessions?”
- “Will my preferred name and pronouns be respected in therapy sessions?”
- “Does the university’s health insurance cover therapy sessions?”
You may also explore options such as group therapy, where there may be LGBTQ+ specific groups. If you do not wish to use the university’s mental health services, but are still in need of mental health support, you should find out if there are any off campus and unaffiliated therapy or psychiatry services easily accessible within the area.
Not only should one make note of the mental health support, but it is also important to pay attention to the available physical health services. Many universities have centers dedicated to education on safe sex practices, as well as free and anonymous contraceptives and STD tests being available for students.
Some campuses host a branch of Planned Parenthood, which offer many resources for students regardless of gender or sexuality. It is smart to early on do research as to the sort of healthcare resources you will have available.
If you are in the process of transitioning and are interested in university health insurance, you should definitely check to ensure that university insurance will cover hormone therapy, reassignment surgeries, and any other care you may need during your transition.
Universities often have gyms and athletic facilities available for students. Due to recent laws and bills being passed in some states, there is some contention and controversy around gender and athletics.
Unfortunately, these are statewide bills not determined by the university alone. Transgender athletes should pay close attention to which states are enacting restrictions on sports teams, as well as university specific policies.
If you’re interested in studying queer issues from an academic perspective, there are a lot of fascinating ways to do so in university. Some specific programs to look for in colleges are majors such as Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Sociology; Anthropology (particularly cultural anthropology); and Public Health.
You may also want to explore a university’s Political Science, History, Literature, Communications, Psychology, Cultural Studies, or other social science and humanities programs, which may offer some courses focused on queer issues.
This would be another good time to check out the university library and determine the sort of resources they offer academically on queer issues, whether it’s databases, journals, magazines, research articles or more. There may also be conferences and consortiums hosted by your university— or at least that your university has participated in in the past— that the library has information on.
Check out the faculty directory and newsletters to find out if there are any professors or PhD students working on LGBTQ+ related research or presenting at conferences surrounding queer issues. You could always send an email asking to speak more; many academics are very happy to talk to prospective students about their work.
Some queer students are escaping an unfortunate home situation by going away to university and thus have little to no financial support. Universities often have crisis funds that may be accessible to students who need them.
Financial support differs widely from university to university, so the only advice that remains fairly consistent is to always speak to financial services in person if possible. It is far more likely you will receive the necessary assistance if you show up to the Financial Services Office in person rather than by phone or email. Emails tend to get lost, while phone calls are becoming more and more automated by the day.
Beyond crisis funds, there sometimes exist scholarships aimed at queer students for studying a specific major or participating in a specific program. Ask around at the Financial Services Office as well as the LGBTQ+ center, if there is one, to see what opportunities are available regarding scholarships and other modes of funding for queer students in need.
(And remember, regardless of gender, orientation, or anything, always fill out your FAFSA!)
There are plenty of resources for LGBTQ+ students, and if it’s important to you that your college has a strong support system in place, it’s good to start looking for those resources early on in the college application process.
Some students say queer resources were unimportant in their decision, some say they were considered but not make or break. But for some, resources for queer students and a strong community are exceptionally important.
Sam, a sophomore at Yale University, says that they believe that the influx of anti–trans and anti–queer bills getting passed at the state level has made strong university support more important than ever for queer students. So whether or not you’re interested in joining a queer students organization or majoring in gender studies, it is important to be aware of all of the resources your university offers to support you during your years as a student.
Do not be afraid to make use of the medical and financial resources you need. They are there to support you and your peers to ensure you will remain safe, healthy, and respected during your time at university.
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