LGBTI allies and supportive college environments: Help students excel

shutterstock_136091078.jpg

Unfortunately, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) students experience discrimination at college (university). Those that question their sexual or gender orientation can also experience this. They may be verbally harassed, bullied and some report having their property damaged. Promoting college environments that are LGBTI-friendly may help our LGBTI students excel. These environments should also be friendly to those who are questioning their sexual or gender orientation. In this post, Pink Families explores why it’s so important to promote diversity at college, who the LGBTI allies of LGBTQI (questioning) students might be and what can be done to promote a positive college environment.

Why is it important to promote diversity at college?

It’s important to promote diversity and tolerance in college settings as it is common for individuals to come out when they are in college.

Even though many LGBTQI students may come out, they may also be aware of negative attitudes towards LGBTI issues and individuals. This makes it harder for students to feel comfortable about themselves. It also makes it harder to come out.

In addition, many LGBTQI college students experience violence and harassment while they are studying at college. This may impact negatively on their ability to excel.

Even though the data is patchy, some have suggested that most suicide attempts among gay and lesbian individuals occur within their twenties. This is usually when most people attend college. This is one of the reasons why it is very important to ensure supportive college environments for LGBTQI students.

Which college students are LGBTQI friendly?

Parental attitudes influence children’s attitudes toward LGBTQI issues, individuals and families. However, parental influence becomes less prominent once individuals start to go to college.

People start to be influenced by other factors once they start to immerse themselves within the college culture, once they start to meet new people with new and different ideas, and once they start to meet people with lifestyles that are different to their own. Some students start to form their own opinions about LGBTQI topics and people during their college years.

Who are the LGBTQI allies at college?

A recent study examined college students’ attitudes toward LGBT students. This research can help us identify who the potential allies of LGBTQI students are at college. The study was conducted in a public college (university) located in the southeast region of the US.

The research found that higher levels of tolerance were demonstrated by women, those with more liberal christian traditions, those with non-christian faith, those who identify as LGBT, and those who have been at college for relatively longer periods of time.

In addition, those enrolled in the college of arts and sciences were more tolerant than those enrolled in business or education.

Although this study isn’t definitive, it does provide some useful insights into college culture and relationships. It might also be helpful to individual students that are trying to find out where it might be safe to come out and socialize.

Helping LGBTQI students excel at college

Even though students can be helped by relationships they form with individuals students, there are also a number of strategies that can help create college environments useful to our LGBTQI students. This includes:

  1. Increasing the visibility of LGBTI students on campus.
  2. Discussing and promoting LGBTI issues and topics on campus.
  3. Establishing interdisciplinary study days that involve diversity and tolerance classes.
  4. Inviting LGBTI community leaders and role models to present in classes and speak at college forums.
  5. Having LGBTI lecturers and tutors who are out.
  6. Promoting cross-departmental teaching in order to help address certain sectors in the college that may benefit from equality and diversity training, and interventions.

References

Holland L. Matthews TL. Schott MR. “That’s so gay!” Exploring College Students’ Attitudes Toward the LGBT Population. Journal of Homosexuality 2013;60(4):575-595.

Rankin S. Campus Climates for Sexual Minorities. New Directions for Student Services 2003;111:17-23.

Share & connect with Pink Families

PinIt