Know Your Rights in College Campus

A large number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (gay) and transphobic students attend colleges and universities throughout the United States. Some live in fear of being outed by others; some seek refuge in the most supportive environments available. Some simply hope that their school will understand their needs and support them in creating a positive social climate on campus. Some are fortunate enough to have parents who encourage them in the right ways; others are not so lucky. Stigmatization and bullying are very real problems for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (gay) and transphobic students everywhere. While no school is free from responsibility for student safety, schools must take steps to address issues that directly impact the lives of gay, lesbian, and transgendered (gay) students.

Unfortunately, physical assault and other forms of harassment are not uncommon on college campuses. Ongoing hostility and intolerance are an issue for gay, lesbian, and transgendered (gay) college students, their family members and their college peers. Stigmatization and bullying are a direct result of the double standard present in our society and our schools.

The effects of this ignorance are far-reaching; it has caused many young adults to suffer in unhealthy and dangerous environments. It has caused many young adults to give up their education and their careers. It has caused many young adults to experience life as an outcast – unable to connect with others or develop important friendships. This constant state of isolation affects the mental health and wellness of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (gay) and transphobic (trans) college students.

A significant problem affecting the mental health and wellness of LGBTQ individuals in college is the lack of support from faculty, staff, and fellow students. The majority of colleges and universities have a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, because no policy exists to address sexual orientation or gender identity, many colleges and universities fail to develop meaningful resources to encourage sexual and gender identity-based harassment or to provide instruction about safe sexual practices. Some schools also fail to remove offensive costumes like wigs and princess dresses that may promote sexual identity confusion to young adults.

Lack of support from the college community can perpetuate harassment or even lead to a hate crime. Many transgendered ( transgender) young people report feeling frustrated and erased by classmates and faculty members who refuse to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some have been physically attacked or harassed in the college hallway, gym, and parking lot. Other Trans students have experienced name-calling in the classroom and on campus, exclusion from clubs and organizations, and physical violence.

Despite the fact that there are so many physical and verbal threats and harassment incidents reported each year at colleges and universities, there is still a long way to go when it comes to making colleges and universities a truly welcoming and inclusive place for all students. Only about half of the colleges and universities in the country are actually welcoming to the transgendered community. Even when the school has a policy that specifically states that everyone is welcome, they often fail to enforce this policy. As a result, many transgendered students feel isolated, denied access to activities, harassed and scared. And unfortunately, some of the victims of these attacks end up hurting themselves or other people because they don’t feel safe or accepted by their college’s community.

In order for our nation to move forward and accept all people, regardless of race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation, we must eliminate anti-discrimination and violence against any and all who identify as lesbian, gay, bi, or transgendered. If you know someone who is lesbian, gay, or bisexual, you need to make it clear to them that there is nothing wrong with them. Ask them how they feel about the issue and ask them what kind of changes they would like to see made on college campuses to make them more welcoming to LGBTQ students. If your child wants to join an active gay community at school, let them pursue that goal. But remember, whatever you do, stand up for your transgendered or lesbian child, and stand by them to ensure that they are able to enjoy college as much as anyone else.