Asking LGBTQ Identity Questions in Forms and in Research

A growing number of colleges and universities are asking students their gender identity and sexual orientation on admissions forms and in research, either by having a question(s) on their own application or research materials or by adding a supplemental question(s) to widely -used forms like the Common Application.

The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), the most comprehensive source of information on college students, has started to ask questions about gender identity. Other institutions with gender identity and sexual orientation questions on their applications include Dartmouth College, Duke University, Elmhurst College, Elon University, MIT, Northeastern Illinois University, the Ohio State University, Purdue University, the University of Iowa, the University of Maryland, the University of Rochester, and all two-year colleges in California and Washington.

Your school or research team should also begin to ask gender identity and sexual orientation questions on your applications, demographic forms and in research. By better knowing the students who are participating in your admissions applications, attending your school or participating in your college research studies, it allows your college or university to place a higher value on safe, inclusive campus climates, diversity and a respect of the various identities that make each student unique.

Questions on gender identity and sexual orientation are needed for the following reasons.

  • More and more LGBTQ students are living openly when they apply to college and want to be able to self-identify—just as they do with their race, ethnicity, or religion.  The questions that we are proposing on gender identity and sexual orientation would be optional, so that LGBTQ students who are not living openly or not comfortable disclosing do not have to do so.
  • More and more colleges and universities are seeking to track the numbers of openly LGBTQ students applying, being accepted, and enrolling in their institutions.  The lack of questions on LGBTQ identity on the Common Application makes obtaining this data more difficult.
  • Some colleges and universities have scholarships for students in underrepresented groups or specifically for LGBTQ students or want to do special outreach to prospective LGBTQ students.  Again, institutions would benefit from having an easier way to identify these students.
  • Title IX requires institutions to protect students from discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression, but colleges are less able to meet this obligation if they do not allow the option for transgender students to disclose this important aspect of their gender and gender identity.

We have included some language that you could adopt to allow a range of identities we find many LGBTQ students have. Other national groups, such as the Williams Institute and the Consortium of Higher Education have additional recommendations and suggested best practices for language to use.


Gender Identity (optional; choose all that apply):

__ agender

__ androgyne

__ demigender

__ genderqueer or genderfluid

__ man

__ questioning or unsure

__ trans man

__ trans woman

__ woman

__ an identity not listed: please specify ____________________________


Sexual Orientation (optional; choose all that apply):

__ asexual

__ bisexual

__ gay

__ lesbian

__ pansexual

__ queer

__ questioning or unsure

__ same-gender loving

__ straight (heterosexual)

__ an identity not listed: please specify ____________________________


Allison Marie Turner is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism and mass communication and women’s and gender studies. She is a 2015 Summer Fellow for Campus Pride. Follow her on Twitter @amturner1993.

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