How to Choose an LGBTQ-Friendly College
Choosing an LGBTQ-friendly college is a daunting task on top of a daunting task. Picking a school that’s right for you is already difficult, but as a queer student, finding a college that supports and affirms your identity might be another worry on you mind. This guide will help you on the search for a queer-friendly school.
How to know if a college is LGBTQ-friendly
There are many factors to consider when determining whether or not a college is queer-friendly. Some may seem more obvious than others, and you get to decide how important it is. Maybe not everything on this list matters to you, and that’s okay. These suggestions are simply meant to help assess how LGBTQ-friendly a campus may be.
LGBTQ+ center and resources
The first thing you want to look for is whether or not a college has some kind of LGBTQ+ resource center on campus. That being said, most colleges and universities do have resource centers for queer students. So the presence of one in itself is not a great indicator of how queer-friendly a college is.
Try to see what kinds of services the LGBTQ+ center offers. What kind of safe spaces and community building opportunities does the center to provide to its LGBTQ+ students? What measures is the center taking to get the whole campus on board with being affirming? Is there a drop-in community space? Do they have support specifically for trans students? What kind of mental health support do they offer? Does the center operate with an intersectional lens that actively fight against racism/ableism/etc.?
These are just a few questions to get your search started. But what really matters is what matters to you. Which service(s) or feature(s) of an LGBTQ+ center are most important to you? That’s what you need to check for.
College & university policy
It’s also important to look at the schools’ equity, diversity, and inclusion departments. Most schools have such centers, so comparing them to each other can be a better indicator of which school has a stronger sense of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Browse the school’s department, their mission statements and visions, and compare them. Does one school’s statements appear more detailed and concrete? Does another school seem vague and abstract? Reading into the content on their website can help indicate which school may be more LGBTQ-friendly.
Gender inclusive housing
If gender-inclusive housing is important to you, then its essential to see if colleges you are interested in have such options. Traditionally, on-campus dorms arrange student living by separating boys and girls. While this is a valid choice for many students, it can also be constricting for others.
Gender-inclusive housing provides housing arrangements regardless of sex assigned at birth. This housing option aims to affirm gender identities of transgender, non-binary, genderfluid, and other gender expansive people.
It is important to note that gender-inclusive housing is not LGBTQ-exclusive housing. Therefore, it’s worth looking into whether or not the university with such housing has any policies in place to ensure the housing is safe and affirming for queer students.
For example, the University of Dallas lists community standards with their gender-inclusive housing information. Standards include promoting and using inclusive language and using residents’ self-identified pronouns.
Check local crime reports
Although grim, a way to find out of a particular location is relatively LGBTQ-friendly is to check crime reports. The FBI has a crime exploration web feature that allows users to look at reported hate crimes by state, police department, and by type of hate crime.
Know what you need from a college
When it comes to choosing an LGBTQ-friendly college, considering your resilience is a must. What helps you bounce back in times of adversity? What supports a state of flow?
Reflecting on the things you rely on for comfort can be extremely helpful when choosing an LGBTQ-friendly college. But in this case, it’s less about the LGBTQ-friendliness of the college and more about what strengthens your resilience as an LGBTQ person in a society that is not always supportive or affirming.
What are your non-negotiables?
Ask yourself, what things would make college too hard? What do you need to get by? (And for many, what do you need to live on your own for the first time?)
Maybe that means staying close to family and friends. Maybe it means choosing a college with a specific club, a community for practicing your faith, having access to nature. Use these non-negotiables to help narrow down your list of options.
What grows your resilience?
Similarly, what kinds of comforts help you get through difficult times? With country-wide attacks against LGTBQ+ people, focusing on school and adjusting to living on your own might be more difficult. LGBTQ+ students, as you might have already experienced, face unique challenges. Building your resilience is an important part of overcoming challenges and thriving in this next phase of life.
What brings you comfort? For me, it was Mexican food. (Or Tex Mex). The campus I chose absolutely needed to have some kind of Mexican food option available every day. (And they did–an excellent burrito place in the center of campus. And in my second year, they got a Qdoba.)
Ask yourself what builds your resilience. Maybe it’s having access to the gym, being close to a beach, or having a certain comfort food within reach. Whatever it is, use this to guide your college choice. Being an LGBTQ+ person can be tough at times, so making life as comforting as possible can help offset that.
Choosing an LGBTQ-friendly college
Not every queer person is the same. We all face different challenges and the role our queer identities play in our lives vary from person to person. But LGBTQ+ people face adversity, so finding a college that does not add to these challenges can be key to jump-starting a healthy adulthood.