Discrimination for Gay and Lesbian College Students
Discrimination for gay and lesbian people is alive and well. You are more likely to find this sort of discrimination in a college campus than in the rest of the world. In fact, a recent survey by the Human Rights Campaign found that nearly one in four college students reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment or discrimination due to their sexual orientation. Sadly, many college students do not report their harassment or discrimination out of fear of reprisal from administrators or fellow students. In this case, the discrimination is often worse than the harassment itself.
A significant amount of the confusion surrounding discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity has been caused by the efforts of organizations like the Gay and Lesbian Student’s Union (GLSU) to support students who are struggling with being gay or lesbian in college. However, they have also promoted a certain level of intolerance among other college students. This intolerance is most commonly expressed in comments made by some student supporters against homosexuality. These “in jokes” or anti-gay slogans that seem to be a part of everyday conversation have contributed greatly to the increased level of intolerance on college campuses.
There are those who say that being homosexual is an acceptable form of sexual expression, but others argue that it is something that is sinful. In reality, being gay or lesbian is a non-conformity with basic societal norms. Homosexuality, like heterosexuality, does not mean you are abnormal or undesirable. There are people who live in strait relationships and serve in the armed forces. There are also many straight people who have married men and children. Being gay is simply a variant of human sexuality – the ability to behave according to the gender of one’s choosing.
In addition to anti-gay and lesbian comments, discrimination can also come in the form of physical treatment. As the GLSU has pointed out, there are a number of cases where gay and lesbian students have been physically attacked due to their sexual orientation. The incidents include cases of gay students being taunted, harassed or pushed into a locker room. Gay and lesbian students are often targeted by locker room jokes and other taunts. This physical violence has no place in a college or university, and should not be tolerated. Those who witness such behavior need to report it to authorities, and the rest will likely follow suit.
Another form of discrimination can come from the administration. Many colleges and universities have official policies against discrimination based on sexual orientation, yet many administrators still fail to make clear their intentions. Discrimination can take many forms, even when it comes to restroom usage. College students should be able to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, not the one that matches their sexual preference. This kind of discrimination may not seem as offensive as the verbal insults aimed at gay and lesbian students, but it is still just as wrong.
Many schools have zero tolerance policies for discrimination, yet they often fail to enforce them. Students who witness discrimination for gay and lesbian in college have a right to be treated equally in the classroom, on campus and in the workplace. Schools that refuse to accommodate the needs of its gay and lesbian students do so at their own peril. There is no reason for a school to adopt policies that allow discrimination and harassment of this kind, especially in light of the tragic high statistics of young people being killed or driven to suicide because of acts of discrimination.
Gay and lesbian students deserve to be protected by anti-discrimination laws. But like so many other progressive policies, these do not work well in practice. Anti-discrimination in college has become just a farce, because too few schools actually have anti-discrimination policies that work. In order to prevent discrimination, college must make a policy strong enough to deter discrimination and harassment. It also must provide adequate accommodations for the discriminated-upon in the workplace, on campus and in the school itself. For example, it might be reasonable for a college to allow a gay student to attend physical classes, but not to attend spiritual classes or engage in sexual counseling.
But no school can pretend to have a zero tolerance policy on discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. If a school allows discrimination, then it is liable to its students for damages caused by discrimination. A college, like a business, can be held responsible for monetary damages if it allows discrimination. If a student feels discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation, he or she may bring a lawsuit against the school, and the school may be responsible for damages. If you or someone you know thinks that they are being discriminated against for being gay or lesbian, you should speak to an attorney who specializes in sexual orientation discrimination.