Before you begin reading LGBTQ-friendly campus profiles on the Campus Pride Index, there are important questions to ask yourself: Do you know what you’re looking for? Even more, do you know what exactly you want or need in a college in terms of LGBTQ issues? Possibly hearing perspectives from other out LGBTQ high school students can help you to consider all your choices. Following is a top 10 list compiled form feedback of LGBTQ high school students searching for the best LGBTQ campus. Keep this list close by as you narrow down your LGBTQ campus choice. Think about whether any of these LGBTQ issues matter to you and how much!
1. ACTIVE STUDENT ORGANIZATION ON CAMPUS
For many campuses, it all started with a queer student organization creating positive change. LGBTQ students want to find a sense of community with their peers. LGBTQ student organizations provide social, educational, and leadership opportunities, which many students ask for in a college campus.
Such groups are critical to the well being of LGBTQ students as a social network, support system, and outlet for activism. Some students inquire about groups specific to gender identity/expression, students of color, religion, and special interests/activities. What do you want in LGBTQ student organization on your future campus?
2. OUT LGBT STUDENTS
“Where are the queers?” That is how one LGBTQ high school student put it. Prospective LGBTQ college students look for other LGBT students to be visible and active in all aspects of the academic setting and campus life.
3. OUT LGBT FACULTY AND STAFF
LGBT students have stated their desire for visible role models to identify with and to provide insight into the local community. Out LGBT faculty and staff can serve as advisors and be a common thread of support throughout the college years.
4. LGBT-INCLUSIVE POLICIES
Campus policies demonstrate a commitment and a standard for students to follow. They are a campus promise of sorts. LGBTQ-supportive campuses have “sexual orientation” in their nondiscrimination policy. Another indicator of LGBTQ support, although it currently appears in a smaller number of campus policies, are the words “gender identity or expression” in the campus nondiscrimination statement. Also indicators of LGBTQ-inclusiveness are a campus policy for same-sex domestic partner benefits or trans-inclusive health benefits. Each of these policies expresses an acceptance level of the campus and its commitment to LGBTQ issues.
5. VISIBLE SIGNS OF PRIDE
Rainbow flags and pink triangles are socio-environmental influences that can create a sense of openness, safety, and inclusion in the campus community towards LGBT issues. Their prominent presence also sends a clear signal that it is “okay to be gay.” Other visible signs would include an Ally or Safe Space/Safe Zone program.
6. OUT LGBT ALLIES FROM THE TOP DOWN
Allies are essential to LGBT students, especially those found in LGBTQ-friendly college administrations. LGBTQ students listen for top-level administrators such as the president, vice president, or a dean to include LGBTQ issues in the campus dialogue. Visible allies are also important in the classroom and in student life on campus. Listen for examples of how allies stand up for LGBTQ students on campus.
7. LGBT-INCLUSIVE HOUSING AND GENDER NEUTRAL BATHROOMS
The options for LGBTQ-theme housing and gender-neutral bathrooms are elements that foster an LGBTQ atmosphere conductive to living and learning.
8. ESTABLISHED LGBT CENTER/OFFICE ON CAMPUS
Many LGBTQ students check right away to see what committed campus resources are available. One of the most easily recognizable and visible support services is an established LGBTQ center/office on campus. Such a place allows for queer students and allies to build friendships, find support, and learn about LGBTQ issues. They also serve as the hub of LGBTQ campus life. A college that has an LGBTQ center or office shows a commitment to LGBTQ students that goes beyond words, especially if the center/office has dedicated paid professional staff. Remember that it may not be realistic for a smaller campus to have a separate center/office, but you can look beyond that for other LGBTQ commitments and resources.
9. LGBT/QUEER STUDIES ACADEMIC MAJOR OR MINOR
Some LGBTQ high school students are looking for a campus with outlets to study LGBTQ issues. Their passion in life is to not only get a degree but also take classes where they can learn about LGBTQ identity, politics, and history. And for some that means even graduating with an academic major or minor in LGBTQ/queer studies.
10. LIBERAL ATTITUDE AND VIBRANT LGBT SOCIAL SCENE
These are actually two separate issues, but they are interrelated. LGBTQ students want to be accepted fully and not merely be tolerated. In addition, a vibrant LGBTQ social scene not only is a high priority but can also mean different things to each student. Some LGBTQ students want to live on a campus that offers queer entertainment choices, whereas others prefer relying on the local city where the campus resides, for activities. Whatever you need, take note of the liberalness and the queer life on campus. Then, determine what you desire.