According to Mental Health America, LGBT youth are almost twice as likely to experience bullying and harassment. This treatment can impede a student’s ability to focus and learn and often has detrimental impacts on their mental health and physical safety.
LGBTQ+ students commonly face additional pressures and concerns when navigating college life. Selecting a safe and inclusive school can significantly improve their college experience. Many institutions work to create more affirming spaces for LGBTQ+ students. This guide provides an overview of organizations and resources for LGBTQ+ students.
The Importance of LGBTQ+ Student Resources
Universities support and advocate for LGBTQ+ students in a variety of ways. For example, many schools host campus events and provide access to health services, student groups and organizations, and mentorship programs. LGBTQ+ learners often create student-led groups to create a more welcoming environment on their campus.
Find Colleges With LGBTQ+ Centers
Many colleges maintain LGBTQ+ centers. These centers serve as a central community and provide resources for LGBTQ+ students on campus. They help make the campus more inclusive and supportive for LGBTQ+ students. Student services may include gender inclusive housing, mentorship programs, and consultations and workshops. The presence and quality of this type of center can indicate an LGBTQ-friendly campus.
Examples of LGBTQ+ student centers include the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center at Cal State LA and the Office of BGLTQ Student Life at Harvard. Students can contact prospective schools to learn about available LGBTQ+ resources for students. Learners can also search for LGBTQ-friendly campuses through the Campus Pride Index.
Organizations for LGBTQ+ Students
A variety of organizations provide support, community, and resources for LGBTQ+ students. These organizations present opportunities to meet like-minded individuals and develop relationships with others who understand the LGBTQ+ experience. The following list features a few organizations and resources available to LGBTQ+ college students nationwide.
Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Awareness
This resource page from the American College Personnel Association provides links to informative websites. The page also links to other organizations that support LGBTQ+ communities, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Family Equality Council, and Gay Parent Magazine.
Campus Pride strives to remove prejudice, bigotry, and hate from college campuses. The organization provides leadership development and support programs to help LGBTQ+ students and allies create more inclusive college and university campuses.
Coalition for Sexuality and Gender Identities
This American College Personnel Association organization advocates for the LGBTQ+ community in higher education. The coalition works to increase awareness and eliminate oppression.
Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
This organization works toward the liberation of LGBTQ+ people in higher education. The consortium hosts an annual conference, webinars, and a summer institute program. The organization also publishes reports, provides links to research, and assists members with job searches.
Delta Lambda Phi
This social fraternity was founded in 1986 by gay men, for all men. Delta Lambda Phi is dedicated to developing lifelong bonds of friendship and support. The fraternity provides LGBTQ+ men with opportunities for leadership and personal growth.
Gamma Rho Lambda National Sorority
Gamma Rho Lambda embraces the values of tolerance, diversity, unity, and trust. The national sorority provides scholastic guidance, emotional support, and community service. Members often develop lifelong bonds.
This organization champions LGBTQ+ issues in K-12 education. GLSEN works to transform schools into affirming spaces, where LGBTQ+ students can learn and grow without bullying or harassment.
This network of student-run organizations provides safe spaces for LGBTQ+ and allied youth to unite. The network also serves as a vehicle for deep social change. Participants can build community and work to solve the issues in their school.
United States Student Association
USSA is the nation's largest and oldest student-led organization dedicated to amplifying student voices on issues related to education justice. USSA runs campaigns on the state of emergency for students of color and advocates for free higher education.
Resources for LGBTQ Students
Coordinator, Queer Resource Center
Meet the Expert
Craig Leets, Jr. is the coordinator of the Queer Resource Center (QRC) at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Craig earned his bachelor of arts in communication studies with a minor in leadership and organizational studies at Chapman University in Orange, California, before completing his MA in counseling and personnel services with a focus in college student personnel at the University of Maryland, College Park.
While working on his master’s, Craig was employed by UMD as a resident director, where he worked on gender-inclusive housing, an inclusive language campaign, and a coming-out support group for students. Prior to coming to PSU in October 2013 to lead the QRC, Craig worked at Penn State University as the assistant director for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally Student Resource Center.
Q. What are some of the issues that prospective LGBTQ+ students should be thinking about when choosing a college or program?
There are several things we would encourage LGBT students to think about when they go to college. Location is one. Do they want to go away from home? Are they staying at home? Geographic region matters. Online students can study from anywhere, so it probably matters less to them. But for students going to brick-and-mortar institutions, it matters. Urban areas are often more LGBT-friendly than rural areas, so that is one of the subjects we would encourage students to consider.
I would also encourage an LGBT student to determine the extent to which there is a community on campus. For some LGBT students, being part of a community is really important. Some institutions don’t have a community at all, and others have a really thriving and robust community.
For some students, the level of outness is an issue. Some students may not be out to their families. So, the question is do they want to be out at college, and what will that mean? How will that affect their experience? Often, we have first-year students who are not out at home but who come to campus and are really celebrated and able to be out. Then at winter break, they want to go home and come out to their families. And we often want to have a conversation about how that might affect their relationships or funding to go to school. So that might be something to think more about.
We would also encourage students to take a look at the resources available to LGBT students. The number of LGBT centers on campuses is about 200-250, compared to thousands of institutions. And sometimes it’s not just about having a center — it’s about the school’s policies or housing options. For example, if a student’s family insists that they either attend a school nearby or opt for an online program, the lack of on-campus resources might be a good reason to choose the online option.
Q. Have you had students that come into your office and tell you that they are thinking about an online program?
I don’t see a whole lot of prospective students. Most of the students we interact with here are already enrolled. I think we have a number of students who do a combination of online and in-class courses, or who move from taking classes on campus to an exclusively online term. And that could be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s finances; sometimes they just have other things going on in their lives.
One thing in particular specifically impacts transgender people. Sometimes when they are going through their transition, they don’t want to be on campus and transitioning at the same time. Online education offers the opportunity to transition while still going to school.
Q. If a prospective LGBTQ+ student came to you and asked about choosing a college or program, what would be your single best piece of advice?
I would say to the person, “Find a place where you can be you, and decide which things are the most important to you.” For some people, a big thriving community with a lot of social opportunities is important. For others, activism might be more important. Other folks just want to go to school, and being out and being visible is not the most important thing to them. I would just really encourage the student to look into those schools where they feel like they can be themselves and are able to meet their goals.