Most college campuses are safe havens for LGBT students, full of support and free of prejudice. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
Discrimination still happens on campus, and sometimes the prejudice towards LGBT students doesn’t just come from their intolerant peers. Sometimes it comes from the school itself.
Unfortunately, the rights of LGBT students aren’t the same across the country. How much protection queer students have against discrimination, and how much influence they have in stopping it when it does happen, depends largely upon the state they live in and their school’s own unique policy on the matter.
Some schools are more tolerant than others, and some are very vocal about just how intolerant they are. There are some schools, mostly private, religious schools, that do not enforce nondiscrimination policies, and the existence of these institutions should encourage students to do serious research on the schools they’re considering attending before choosing one.
This situation isn't always a hopeless one, though. If you do find yourself facing discrimination from your school based on your sexuality or gender preference, there are some things you can do about it.
Know Your School’s Policy on Discrimination
Most schools should have easily accessible legal and policy information on their website. If they offer an equal opportunity education, they may also offer guidelines on how to report cases of unwarranted discrimination.
If unfair treatment based on sexuality isn’t something frowned upon by your school that information is also important to note, considering it affects how much or if you’ll be able to fight against the prejudice. Knowing your school’s policy will tell you if you need only fight the discrimination of a single person or a group or if you’ll need to challenge the college’s policies altogether.
Being vocal about the injustices you’ve faced can help alert others to the issue. Not only can it get others who disagree with the discrimination on your side, it can warn other LGBT individuals to be wary of the same thing happening to them. Possibly, it may even incite a few others who have had the same issues to speak out and join you in trying to change a policy or correct the behavior of an out-of-line employee, faculty or fellow student.
Staying quiet and ignoring the issue rarely helps. As long as you’re in a safe place where you don't believe you’ll be severely punished or cause more problems for yourself by being vocal about your issue, speaking out and taking a stand is the best route to making a difference.
Changing schools isn’t an ideal solution, or even one of the first you should consider, but ultimately your decisions should be based upon your safety, comfort, and respect. Applying to another school, moving, and starting a whole new social and academic life with new friends, new teachers, and new organizations is more than just a hassle or an inconvenience.
But if the situation at your current school is injurious enough, transferring to a more supportive environment can be beneficial to both your mental health and your academics. Though you should keep in mind the support system available to you (like your advisor, college health center, and student support services), if your school doesn't provide you with the same opportunities as other students just because of your sexuality, you will be held back from reaching your full potential as a student — and ultimately, learning is why you’re attending school in the first place.
Earning that degree and gaining enough experience for the job market should be your number one priority in college, and if your school makes that goal harder for you to achieve, maybe it isn't the right school for you.