Five tips for LGBTQ students on religiously-affiliated campuses

by Allison Marie Turner

Campus Pride shares five tips on being openly LGBTQ on a religiously-affiliated campus:

  1. Know that you are loved: Here at Campus Pride, we believe that being LGBTQ is not a sin. The first person you should have this conversation with is yourself. You should never be made to feel ashamed for who you are. Remember that all religions talk about the importance of love and that most religious figures are known for accepting people from all walks of life and backgrounds.
  2. Find your allies: Identify other students, faculty, administration or student groups who are either LGBTQ or advocating for LGBTQ students within your school. Some may easily identified by a SafeZone certificate or sticker on their office or dorm door, if your school has a SafeZone training program. Finding tenured faculty or leadership within your school who advocate for LGBTQ students can be vitally important for creating change on campus. You can also find allies on open and affirming off-campus churches.
  3. Know your school’s policies: Does your religiously-affiliated school offer specific services for LGBTQ students? Does your school have official rules against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity? Your school may be listed on the Campus Pride Index, which rates schools on their LGBTQ-friendliness, which can be helpful in finding answers to these questions. Knowing laws within the local community around your school is also important.
  4. Ensure your safety: Try to find your campus or religious group’s previous experiences with the LGBTQ community. If they have been welcoming in the past, great! If not, always consider your safety in any situation. Make sure to know who is the best person or group to go to if you are in danger. This includes knowing which on- and off-campus groups handle hate crime incident reports and physical or sexual assault reports. This includes all aspects of safety, including physical and emotional. Many people’s relationship to religion is a major part of their self-care, and finding safe spaces to talk about this relationship can be crucial to your well-being.
  5. Assume best intentions: Many people want to be religious allies to the LGBTQ community, but may slip up on their journey to being a good ally. While it is not your job to be a spokesperson for your identity, it might be helpful to assume best intentions of a person who is actively trying to be a good LGBTQ ally. Even if someone is not an ally to the LGBTQ community, do not be afraid to allow yourself to become friends with non-allies. One meeting to discuss LGBTQ issues could be the catalyst needed to creating a good ally.

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 Programs and Communications Fellow for Campus Pride. Follow her on Twitter @amturner1993.

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