Creating LGBTQIA+ Friendly Schools and Campus Communities

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Updated on September 20, 2023
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Creating LGBTQIA+ friendly schools and universities promotes a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. This leads to several benefits such as promoting diversity and inclusivity, reducing discrimination and bullying, improving mental health, helping LGBTQIA+ students achieve academic success, and creating a positive learning environment for everyone involved.

Inclusive environments help reduce the stress and anxiety that can come with being in an unsupportive environment and can improve mental health outcomes. Additionally, when LGBTQIA+ students feel safe and supported, they are better able to focus on their academic goals and achieve academic success. The following article dives more deeply into how schools and universities can approach introducing inclusive learning environments for all students.

What Challenges Do LGBTQIA+ Students Experience Within School or Campus Environments?

LGBTQIA+ students face several challenges within a school or campus environments. Here are some examples:

  • Bullying and discrimination: LGBTQIA+ students are more likely to experience bullying and discrimination, which can lead to lower self-esteem, social isolation, and mental health issues.
  • Lack of visibility and representation: LGBTQIA+ students often lack visibility and representation within school or campus environments, which can lead to feelings of exclusion and erasure.
  • Inadequate support and resources: Many schools and universities lack adequate support and resources for LGBTQIA+ students, such as counseling services, gender-neutral restrooms, and LGBTQIA+ student organizations.
  • Heteronormative and cisnormative assumptions: School and campus environments are often designed with heteronormative and cisnormative assumptions, which can create barriers for LGBTQIA+ students. For example, gendered dress codes can be problematic for gender non-conforming students.
  • Family and community rejection: Some LGBTQIA+ students may face family and community rejection, which can impact their academic performance and mental health.

These challenges can have a significant impact on LGBTQIA+ students’ academic success and well-being, and it is important for schools and universities to address them in order to create safe and inclusive environments for all students.

LGBTQIA+ Students and Mental Health

LGBTQIA+ students are at increased risk of experiencing mental health challenges in school or campus environments, compared to their non-LGBTQIA+ peers. Studies have shown that:

  1. Depression and anxiety: LGBTQIA+ students are more likely to experience depression and anxiety than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers. For example, a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that LGBTQIA+ youth are twice as likely to experience depressive symptoms than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers.
  2. Suicidality: LGBTQIA+ students are at a higher risk of suicide than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers. According to a report by The Trevor Project, LGBTQIA+ youth who come from highly rejecting families are more than eight times as likely to attempt suicide as their LGBTQIA+ peers who come from supportive families.
  3. Substance abuse: LGBTQIA+ students are more likely to engage in substance abuse than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers. A study published in the Journal of School Health found that LGBTQIA+ students are more likely to use drugs, alcohol, and tobacco than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers.
  4. Eating disorders: LGBTQIA+ students, particularly those who identify as gay or bisexual, are more likely to experience eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that gay and bisexual males are more likely to report disordered eating behaviors than heterosexual males.
  5. PTSD: LGBTQIA+ students who have experienced bullying, harassment, or violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that LGBTQIA+ individuals are at higher risk of experiencing trauma and PTSD than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers.

These mental health challenges can have a significant impact on LGBTQIA+ students’ academic performance, social relationships, and overall well-being. It is important for schools and universities to provide support and resources for LGBTQIA+ students to address these challenges and promote mental health and well-being.

10 Recommendations For Creating An Inclusive School or Campus Environment

Creating an LGBTQIA+ inclusive environment in schools and campuses requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the unique challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ students. Here are some strategies that schools and universities can use to create inclusive environments:

  1. Develop LGBTQIA+ inclusive policies: Schools and universities should develop and enforce policies that protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ students. This includes policies that address issues such as harassment, discrimination, and bullying.
  2. Provide education and training: Faculty, staff, and students should receive education and training on LGBTQIA+ issues, including understanding the challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ students and how to support them.
  3. Offer LGBTQIA+ support services: Schools and universities should offer support services for LGBTQIA+ students, such as counseling services, LGBTQIA+ student organizations, and gender-neutral restrooms.
  4. Create a safe and welcoming physical environment: Schools and universities should create a physical environment that is safe and welcoming for LGBTQIA+ students. This includes providing gender-neutral restrooms and creating a welcoming atmosphere for LGBTQIA+ students in common areas.
  5. Foster inclusive language and communication: Schools and universities should use inclusive language and communication to promote inclusivity and respect for all students. This includes using gender-neutral language and avoiding assumptions about students’ sexual orientation or gender identity.
  6. Provide access to LGBTQIA+ resources: Schools and universities should provide access to resources that support LGBTQIA+ students, such as books, articles, and online resources.
  7. Foster community partnerships: Schools and universities should partner with LGBTQIA+ community organizations to promote inclusivity and support for LGBTQIA+ students.
  8. Include LGBTQIA+ representation in curricula and programming: Schools and universities can include LGBTQIA+ representation in their curricula and programming to promote inclusivity and educate students on the contributions and experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals. This can include incorporating LGBTQIA+ history and literature into coursework, as well as featuring LGBTQIA+ speakers and events.
  9. Create a system for reporting and addressing incidents of discrimination: Schools and universities can create a system for reporting and addressing incidents of discrimination against LGBTQIA+ students. This can include providing a clear process for reporting incidents, as well as offering support and resources for students who have experienced discrimination. Additionally, schools and universities can work to hold accountable those who engage in discriminatory behavior and address the root causes of discrimination within their communities.
  10. Engage with LGBTQIA+ student communities: Schools and universities can engage with LGBTQIA+ student communities to promote inclusivity and create a sense of belonging for LGBTQIA+ students. This can include hosting events and social gatherings for LGBTQIA+ students, as well as working with LGBTQIA+ student organizations to create opportunities for leadership and advocacy. By involving LGBTQIA+ students in the planning and implementation of inclusive initiatives, schools and universities can ensure that the needs and perspectives of LGBTQIA+ students are effectively represented and addressed.

By implementing these strategies, schools and universities can create inclusive environments that support the well-being and success of LGBTQIA+ students.

Tips For LGBTQIA+ Students

Starting at a new school or university can be an exciting and challenging experience for any student, but it can be particularly daunting for LGBTQIA+ students. Here are some tips for LGBTQIA+ students to help navigate a new university environment:

  1. Research LGBTQIA+ resources on campus: Before starting classes, LGBTQIA+ students should research the resources available on campus for LGBTQIA+ students. This can include LGBTQIA+ student organizations, counseling services, and gender-neutral restrooms. Knowing what resources are available can help LGBTQIA+ students feel more supported and connected to the community.
  2. Find LGBTQIA+-friendly healthcare providers: LGBTQIA+ students should research healthcare providers who are knowledgeable about and supportive of LGBTQIA+ healthcare needs. This can include providers who offer gender-affirming healthcare, mental health support, and other specialized services.
  3. Be open to new experiences: Starting university is an opportunity to explore new ideas and meet new people. LGBTQIA+ students should be open to new experiences and engage with a diverse range of people and perspectives.
  4. Practice self-care: Starting university can be stressful and overwhelming, and it’s important for LGBTQIA+ students to prioritize self-care. This can include activities such as exercise, meditation, or talking with friends or family. Additionally, LGBTQIA+ students should seek out support from counselors or mental health professionals if needed.

Helpful Resources For LGBTQIA+ Students

Here are some helpful resources for LGBTQIA+ students:

The Trevor Project: A national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQIA+ youth. They also provide resources for coming out and mental health support.

GLSEN: A national organization working to ensure safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQIA+ students. They provide resources for educators, students, and parents.

Campus Pride: A national organization dedicated to creating safe and inclusive campus communities for LGBTQIA+ students. They provide resources for LGBTQIA+ students, as well as a searchable database of LGBTQIA+-friendly colleges and universities.

PFLAG: A national organization providing support for LGBTQIA+ individuals, as well as their families and allies. They have local chapters throughout the United States that provide support and resources for LGBTQIA+ individuals and their families.

Trans Lifeline: A national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. They also provide resources for mental health support and legal assistance.

The Human Rights Campaign: A national organization advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights and equality. They provide resources for LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies, as well as a searchable database of LGBTQIA+-friendly healthcare providers.

These are just a few of the many resources available to LGBTQIA+ students. It’s important for LGBTQIA+ students to seek out resources and support that meet their specific needs and identities.

International LGBTQIA+ Resources

Support and resources for LGBTQIA+ students can be found all around the world. Here are some non-US-based resources and organizations that provide support, advocacy, and information for LGBTQIA+ students:

Stonewall (United Kingdom): Stonewall is a well-known LGBTQ+ rights organization based in the UK. They offer resources and support for LGBTQ+ students, including guidance for schools and colleges on creating inclusive environments.

Terrence Higgins Trust (United Kingdom):This charity focuses on sexual health and HIV prevention. They offer support and resources for LGBTQ+ youth, including information on sexual health and well-being.

The Trevor Project (International): While based in the United States, The Trevor Project provides international resources for LGBTQ+ youth. They offer crisis intervention and suicide prevention services through their website and helpline.

ILGA World (International): The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) is a global organization advocating for LGBTQ+ rights. They have a network of member organizations around the world, which can provide local support and resources.

LGBT Foundation (United Kingdom): The LGBT Foundation in the UK offers various services, including support for LGBTQ+ young people, mental health resources, and sexual health advice.

RainbowYOUTH (New Zealand): RainbowYOUTH is a New Zealand-based organization dedicated to supporting and advocating for LGBTQ+ youth. They provide resources, peer support, and education.

Egale Canada (Canada): Egale Canada is a leading organization advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in Canada. They offer resources and support for LGBTQ+ students, including initiatives to create safe and inclusive schools.

Safe Schools Coalition Australia (Australia): This organization is dedicated to making schools safer and more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students in Australia. They provide resources and training for schools and educators.

PFLAG Canada (Canada): PFLAG Canada is a national organization that provides support, education, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. They have chapters across the country.

InterPride (International): InterPride is an international organization that supports Pride organizations around the world. They can help you find Pride events and organizations in your country or region.

Remember that the availability of resources and support may vary by country and region. It’s essential to reach out to local LGBTQ+ organizations and communities for more specific information and assistance tailored to your location.