College Planning Critical For Gays

Gay CoupleLesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) high school students face unique challenges in the college search and admission process. Finding a college where one feels safe and accepted is paramount for all students, because no one can learn in a hostile environment, but it is especially important for these students.
Shane Windmeyer is the founder and executive director of Campus Pride (, an organization he founded in 2001 to “give voice to leaders and create a safer environment for LGBT youth.”
He has written five books on this issue and, for more than a decade, has worked to ensure that such students have equal rights and access to everything a college campus offers.
Windmeyer told me that when researching and choosing a college, LGBT students should do what all high school students do: Look for colleges that will meet their social, academic and career needs. However, he said, LGBT students also should put each college under “the LGBT lens.” Windmeyer mentions several factors to consider:
# An institutional commitment to inclusiveness and safety: Students should ask whether the college includes LGBT students in all campus policies — both written and stated — and in practice. Windmeyer says colleges that have a paid administrator to oversee such policies are more committed to a climate of inclusiveness than those that merely support student-run programs. LGBT students should be safe from discrimination and physical harm, and campus police should be involved in outreach and have a relationship with LGBT leaders on campus.
# Social and academic life: Windmeyer believes LGBT youth should spend time determining the quality of LGBT social activities on campus. Are they campus-sponsored and varied? Do they meet the needs of distinct groups of LGBT students? For example, are there social functions for Latino gays or Christian lesbians? Students also should pay close attention to academics by determining if there are LGBT professors on campus, and by evaluating classes, programs and majors such as LGBT studies.
# Housing: Is there a way to identify that you’d like a gay-friendly roommate, or do students have the option of a LGBT living/learning environment? Is there appropriate housing for transgender students? Are residential advisers or supervisors trained to deal with LGBT issues?
# Health and psychological support: LGBT women and men have different health and emotional issues from straight women and men. Does the college offer counseling and support for students who are coming out? Are health services transgender-sensitive and forthcoming with safer-sex information?
# Recruitment and retention: Is the college actively recruiting LGBT students? Does it offer LGBT scholarships? What are the graduation and retention rates for LGBT students; do they stay long enough to graduate?
The college search process for LGBT students may be more complex than the search for straight students. However, because of advocates such as Windmeyer, inclusiveness on campus improves every year, and LGBT students will be able to find many colleges that meet all their needs.
from North

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