Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, pansexual, aromantic, genderqueer, nonbinary, and intersex students may have varied experiences in college depending on the community they encounter. Statistics published by the Human Rights Campaign revealed that only 26% of LGBTQ+ teens feel safe in their schools.
For many young queer people, college is where things finally begin to change. To make college a little easier, we’ve created this ultimate guide of resources for LGBTQ+ students in higher education, including scholarships, resources, clubs, anti-bullying hotlines and more. For anyone considering themselves to be somewhere along the gender, sexuality, or romanticism spectrum, here’s what one might consider to be a handbook for LGBTQ+ college students, with helpful LGBTQ+ information such as ways to make the college campus feel more inclusive and less homophobic. Here are some top resources for LGBTQ students going to or getting ready for college.
Before You Go to College: LGBTQ+ Resources for Students
For young people who are out and ready to find an accepting community, college consideration is all the more important. While there’s no “school for gay students,” there are many college campuses that can be far more welcoming than others, with plenty of LGBTQ+ resources and advice already at your disposal. Here are some resources for finding communities that have already been made safer through the efforts of the administration. We included some scholarships for LGBTQ+ students looking to get help for paying for college as well.
Finding LGBTQ+-Friendly Colleges and Communities
Option 1: Go to One of the Most LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges
Here are some of the best colleges for LGBTQ+ students, according to the Campus Pride Index.
The following schools got a rating of five out of five stars for their campus inclusiveness:
Of course, this isn’t the only ranking. Here’s a different ranking based on scores that include health-care options, student life, and safety procedures.
Option 2: Find Out if Your Top College Choice Is LGBTQ+-Friendly
Ask yourself the following questions about the college you’re looking at:
- Does your college have a clear nondiscrimination policy that addresses LGBTQ+ issues? Pull up and read over any relevant student handbooks — a lack of information is usually cause for concern..
- Does your college have an official LGBTQ+ resource center? See if it does on the official Consortium of Higher Education map.
- Does your college offer gender-neutral bathrooms? See if it does by searching for your college in the College Equality Index.
- Does your college offer gender-inclusive housing? You can see if it does in the College Equality Index.
- What kinds of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) or pride clubs are there? Often, you can find this on your potential college’s website. Another way to discover this information is to find your local GSA network and see if it’s listed regionally.
- Does the college offer queer theory classes? Queer studies, queer theory, women’s and gender studies, and other types of programs are a good sign, especially if the school offers a full program or major. Here are some examples of queer studies programs.
- Is the college restrictive with its health-care options for students and staff? The recent “religious freedom” rules legitimizing a history of poor health-care quality for LGBTQ+ individuals can affect students and staff. See if your choice for college has ended up in the news lately for denying care.
- How does your potential college rank on the Campus Pride Index? The Campus Pride Index ranks inclusive policies and practices across the nation; look up your school of choice to see how it has fared.
Option 3: Carve Out a Safe Space at Your College of Choice
Due to the pulling back of national oversight, LGBTQ+ students often face discrimination, and because private schools aren’t under the same requirements as public ones, it can be hard to push for your rights. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. See the ACLU’s resources on dealing with administration issues, learn how you can build a safe environment for discussion, and try to stay within the rules in your student handbook as you’re pushing for change. See our notes on how to start your own GSA. And also, ask yourself how much pushing for this may interfere with your studies. LGBTQ+ students are often under a lot of pressure to learn self-care, which can intensify combined with studies and bullying. That being said, there may be other people in your situation who may also want a voice in that space.
Some Notes About Applications
Luckily, the Common Application has now become trans-friendly, so students can express their gender identity on college applications. Only a handful of undergraduate applications actually ask about gender or sexual orientation. The suggested best practices for applications include language around the fact that the information will be kept private and that it will not used for discriminatory purposes — look for that as you’re applying. Of course, keep in mind that it is always your choice whether you want to be out and check off specific sexuality and gender choices on college applications.
Scholarships and Grants for LGBTQ College Students
- The Human Rights Campaign’s LGBTQ+ Scholarship Database: Look up LGBTQ+ college scholarships here.
- Point Foundation: This organization offers scholarships for LGBTQ+ college students as well as mentoring and training.
- Pride Foundation: Both allies and LGBTQ+ college students can apply for their numerous scholarships.
- Gamma Mu Foundation: Offering funds and scholarships to the LGBTQ+ community, especially those in rural areas, this charitable organization also offers other kinds of direct services.
- Queer Foundation Effective Writing and Scholarships Program: LGBTQA high school students can write an essay to win a $1,000 college scholarship.
- LEAGUE Foundation LGBTQ Scholarships: LEAGUE offers scholarships for LGBTQ+ students including the Matthew Shepard Memorial Scholarship.
- Out for Education Scholarships: This award recognizes outstanding LGBTQIA+ students.
- The 49 Fund: For LGBT people who are out, this organization offers small scholarships.
- Colin Higgins Foundation Youth Courage Awards: For LGBTQ+ individuals who have “transformed their experiences with bigotry” into positive action, this award includes $10,000 and a paid trip to a major conference.
- Stonewall Community Foundation Scholarships: Offering the Traub-Dicker Rainbow Scholarship, which is available for lesbians, and the Levin-Goffe Scholarship for LGBTQI Immigrants, which is available for New York City immigrant LGBTQ or intersex people, this organization is also very important to those hoping to learn more about LGBTQ+ history.
- Live Out Loud Young Trailblazers Scholarship: Awarding as much as $10,000 in scholarships, this organization is for LGBTQ+ youth pursuing a college degree.
- The Jonathan Lax Scholarship for Gay Men: This organization was created to encourage gay men to further their education and act as role models to other gay college students.
- TSER Scholarships: Trans and gender-diverse scholars are eligible to apply for this small scholarship.
- National Women’s Studies Association: This organization offers funds for students who are LGBT, college grants for women of color, and much more within the field of women’s studies.
- Reaching Out LGBTQ MBA Fellowship: This fellowship offers $10,000 and $20,000 scholarships for MBA students.
- The Association of LGBTQ Journalists Scholarships: NLGJA offers both awards for excellent journalism and scholarships for communications students.
- The Kenneth W. Payne Student Prize: This prize is for students of queer anthropology who’ve written on the topic.
- Markowski-Leach Scholarships: This organization aims to create role models for LGBTQ+ people going to one of five major California schools.
- Horizons Foundation: Offering queer people in California numerous fellowship opportunities, this might be a great opportunity for those looking at West Coast schools.
- eQuality Scholarships: This program is for California student leaders who’ve contributed a service to the LGBT community.
- The Tang Scholarship: This is for LGBT people who are also Asian/Pacific islanders.
- NGPA Scholarships: Have you ever wanted to be a pilot? This massive scholarship is offered by the National Gay Pilots Association.
Finding Community: LGBTQ+ Organizations, Clubs, and Events
Lesbian, bisexual, gay, queer, and trans students often congregate in college to create healthy and vocal communities. Student involvement might depend on your campus, but often, you’ll find clubs, groups, and events for those who are LGBTQ+. Advice, help, educational resources, and tools can be shared in those spaces. They’re also a great place to meet new friends!
LGBTQ+ Support Groups
These are just a sampling of some of the national student communities; a student might want to ask, “Where are LGBT organizations near me?” to find organizations at specific colleges. There are some great campus-specific organizations to check out as well!
- Campus Pride: This organization is a volunteer-based group for LGBTQ+ student leaders to encourage safer college campuses.
- GLSEN: The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) offers help to LGBTQ students and promotes events like Ally Week, the Day of Silence, and No Name-Calling Week.
- GSA Network: If your school doesn’t currently have a GSA club, you can be the one to start it! The Genders and Sexualities Alliance Network is made of “trans and queer youth uniting for racial and gender justice.”
- The Community of LGBT Centers: This is a network of LGBTQ rights organizations; see if you can find a local community center.
- GLAAD: The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) promotes positive depictions of LGBTQ people in media.
- Live Out Loud: Offering scholarships, events, and programs, this organization is for connecting LGBT youth with successful professionals in their community.
- Trevor Space: This is a safe social network for LGBTQ people ages 13-24.
- Bisexual Resource Center: Bi+ students might consider checking out these resources.
- National Center for Transgender Equality: Transgender people experiencing discrimination can find help and resources here.
- Trans Student Educational Resources: This youth-led group promotes education about trans and gender-diverse lives.
- Asexual Visibility and Education Network: AVEN offers a safe space for asexual and questioning people.
- InterACT Advocates for Intersex Youth: This is an advocacy group for intersex people and advocates for consensual surgeries.
- Intersex Campaign for Equality: Connect and find resources for intersex people.
- Athlete Ally: Sports players can rely on this group for support.
- PFLAG: This organization is for LGBTQ+ people, their allies, and their families.
- COLAGE: This organization is for people with one or more LGBTQIA parent.
- Straight for Equality: This organization is for straight allies.
- National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance: NQAPIA is a organization for queer Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander groups.
- oSTEM: This organization is for LGBTQ people interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Political Advocacy Groups
Students might also consider joining or donating to national advocacy and political groups like the Equality Federation, the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association, and the Victory Fund.
How to Start a GSA Club
Colleges without LGBTQ+ school clubs likely very much need them. Student-run gay-straight alliances (GSAs) have a legal right to exist in public schools, according to the Equal Access Act. Check out the ACLU’s instructions, mission statement outline, and sample open letter to school principals to get started. If you need a curriculum, check out the Youth in Motion documentaries. Consider joining the GSA Network as well. While private colleges might not offer as many of the same guarantees, many of the tips for getting started are the same.
Events and Conferences
Often, your school will have its own schedule for local pride and queer-related events. If you don’t see enough, note that you can always fundraise and create new events for your college.
- Camp Pride Events: This leadership academy is for undergraduate students.
- Creating Change Conference: This conference is run by the National LGBTQ Task Force.
- Spirit Day: This event is run by GLAAD and was created to speak out against LGBTQ youth bullying and harassment.
- BiWeek: GLAAD also organized this event for bisexual+ awareness.
- Ace Week: This annual event raises awareness of asexuality and celebrates ace pride.
- Day of Silence: This day protests harassment of students, involving silence and a “breaking the silence” rally at the end of the day.
- CenterLink Leadership Summit: This organization helps create leaders of all ages within the LGBT community.
- ROMBA Conference: For LGBTQ MBA students and graduates, this is an ultimate networking event.
- Out for Undergrad: O4U offers yearly conferences for high-achieving students interested in business, engineering, marketing, and technology.
- Transgender Awareness Week: Gender Spectrum promotes this yearly event for trans, nonbinary, and gender-expressive youths.
- Gender Odyssey: An international conference for trans and gender-diverse people, this annual gathering can be a great place to learn more.
- Ally Week: GLSEN offers this event for allies.
How to Fight Discrimination and Homophobia in College
Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ discrimination on college campuses is still a reality. While many campuses across the U.S. are becoming more and more inclusive, there are still situations where students and administrators fail to rise to the opportunity to support LGBTQ+ students. Statistics paint the picture.
LGBT Bullying Statistics
These sobering LGBT discrimination statistics show how important it is that people find a safe community, that college administrators show support, and that students have the resources to help them combat bullying both online and offline. Here are a few of those resources.
Anti-Bullying Resources for LGBTQ Students
Sometimes, the harassment can be so bad that it’s hard to find your footing. Learn about how to take a stand and stem the tide of bullying.
Legal Resources for Those Experiencing LGBT Student Discrimination
Start by understanding student rights, such as Title IX, the EEOC, and your First Amendment rights, as well as current issues surrounding LGBT discrimination in schools, like the “no-promo homo” laws. Right now, the Human Rights Campaign is pushing for federal legislation such as the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, but discrimination still happens. If you’re in a situation that might require legal action, consider looking at some of these resources:
LGBTQ Hotlines and Other Resources for Mental Health
Students with LGBTQ identities have a much higher risk of depression and suicidal thoughts than their heterosexual counterparts. If you’re an LGBTQ+ student looking for help, use one of these resources:
- 1-866-488-7386 (The Trevor Project): This is the top crisis intervention service for LGBTQIA people under 25.
- 877-565-8860 (Trans Lifeline): Offering emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis, this organization has helped thousands of trans people.
- 1-800-273-8255 (Suicide Prevention Lifeline): This national resource, funded by SAMHSA, offers help.
- 212-714-1141 (Anti-Violence Project): Report violence or get crisis intervention help with this organization for LGBTQ and HIV-positive people.
- It Gets Better Project: If you want to know that there are happy and successful queer people out there, the It Gets Better Project offers you realistic proof.
- Family Acceptance Project: This project aims to prevent major health and mental health risks for LGBTQ youth by increasing family acceptance.
- The Q Card: Talking with health providers can be hard for queer and trans young people, and the Q Card is an educational tool that can help young people self-advocate in health-care spaces.
LGBTQ+ Pride Month Support From Brands
Every year during Pride Month in June we notice many brands and retailers rally to show their support. In fact many top brands launch Pride products and collections that celebrate the LGBTQ community. These brands make contributions to LGBTQ organizations like GLSEN, The Trevor Project and others. Below is a short list of brands that were fully supporting pride day last year.
- ASOS - ASOS decided to donate 100% of net sales from its Unity collection to GLAAD.
- Adidas - Adidas launched the Adidas' 2020 Pride pack, which included tees, pacer shorts, and various other items, Also, Adidas made donations to Athlete Ally and Stonewall UK.
- Kohl’s - Previously Kohl’s has donated $100,000 to The Trevor Project, a toll free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth. Each year Kohl’s also offers an assortment of Pride clothing. Note you can usually find an additional 10% to 20% off their already low prices with a Kohl’s promo code to use at online checkout.
- New Balance - New Balance celebrated last year’s Pride Month with a special Pride edition of its classic 327 shoes, as well as the New Balance FuelCell Echo (showcasing a faded cobalt with rainbow accents). They also had a selection of "Run for Love" tank tops and singlets designed specifically for the New York Road Runners.
- Nike - Last Pride Day Nike featured the Nike BeTrue collection which looks multidimensionally at LGBTQ representation.
- Nordstrom - Nordstorm works throughout the year with nonprofits and supports many LGBTQ organizations. Additionally, last year during pride month they provided $100,000 in grants to LGBTQ youth service organizations including Hetrick-Martin Institute, Egale, Pride Foundation and others. Shopping Nordstrom for pride? Be sure to check for Nordstrom coupons or find additional savings shopping through Nordstrom Rack where you can check their pride collection.
- Target - Target launched a Pride collection for Pride Day last year and also partners with various organizations that support the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year. Target also has a section of its website dedicated to Pride, with over 150+ different items to choose from.
- TOMS - TOMS Unity collection features its original Alpargatas in limited edition prints for men and women that feature rainbow stripes, tie-dye, and the words "Love is Love."
- Zenni - Zenni Optical eyewear brand launched a Pride Collection of their glasses that start at just $10 (in both prescription and non-prescription). Zenni also donated 100% of proceeds from Pride Collection sales to the It Gets Better Project. Note that Zenni usually offers 10% off for new members and free shipping with a Zenni discount code.
Other brands that participated in showcasing their support included Converse, Disney, Happy Socks, Kate Spade, Reebok and many others. Actually there's also hundreds of other brands large and small you can shop to buy gear showing your support for LGBTQ+, many of which will donate some or all proceeds to a nonprofit.
LGBTQ Terms and Other Resources
In our final section, we’ve listed out resources to help learn how to properly address trans or queer peers, and use some of these other resources to familiarize yourself with gay culture.
Finding Better Terms and Definitions
- The Family Acceptance Project: Family acceptance is important to the mental health of LGBTQ youth, and this organization aims to increase that acceptance.
- SIECUS: This organization promotes sex education for social change.
- Advocates for Youth: This is another organization aimed at improving sexual education.
- It’s Pronounced Metrosexual: This is an educational tool focused on gender and social justice.
- Bi.org: Bi students looking for more information can read tons of articles and resources here.
- The Advocate: This is a news resource for LGBTQ people hoping to stay abreast of politics and culture.
Have other suggestions? Get in touch with us in our support section to submit additional resources!
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