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Challenges of the Lgbt Population on College Campuses

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Challenges of the LGBT Population on College Campuses A review of the Literature Challenges of the LGBT population on College Campuses A Review of the Literature The need for institutions of higher education to stay relevant dictates that change is necessary. For most, it will require a concerted effort to embrace diversity. Racial and ethnic diversity have historically been the most widely addressed dimensions of diversity.

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However, as institutions continue to advance their efforts, they create a more welcoming campus climate for all individuals and groups.

A current focus of diversity efforts includes the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population. This review will look at the issues and challenges of the LGBT population on college campuses; mainly covering the need to ease the levels violence and harassment on campuses and the desire for inclusion and social justice, and suggesting strategies to address these issues. Due to the nature of the coming out process, there are fundamental challenges to learning the experiences of the LGBT population.

The labels lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender as sexual identity labels present particular problems: A student may be able to articulate feelings of attraction to the same-sex, though are reluctant to adopt the label of lesbian, gay and/or bisexual (Rankin 2003). The challenges that the LGBT population face are neither new nor surprising but the need to address them is certainly relevant (Thiel, 2010). In fact, it appears that for as much progress that has been made on some campuses, there has been no progress on others.

The presence of violence and harassment, as well as the desire for inclusion and justice, indicates the need for attention and research as a chilly campus climate can make for a distressing experience for LGBT students, faculty, and staff. As might be expected, LGBT students’ perceptions of the campus climate and their experiences differ from those of other members of the campus community (Rankin, 2003; Liang & Alimo, 2005). Some LGBT students feel that they are treated different because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

They have difficulty achieving their full academic potential and trouble fully participating in the campus community (Rankin, 2003; Brown, Clarke, Gortmaker, & Robinson-Keilig, 2004). In a study by Liang & Alimo (2005), students shared that they had been discriminated against, physically assaulted and harassed in residence halls, and marginalized in their classes. Physical and verbal anti-gay and lesbian harassment has been documented on all campuses where research on the LGBT population has been conducted, and these behaviors seem to be on the rise nationwide (National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, n. . ). This homonegativity affects LGBT individuals’ physical as well as psychological health (Liang & Alimo, 2005). The LGBT campus experience is at best benign and at worst hostile (Rankin, 2003). Among these challenges, Rankin (2003) states are mental health issues, discrimination, relationship issues, and harassment/abuse. Likewise, LGBT faculty, staff, and administrators may suffer because of the same prejudices, limiting their ability to achieve their career goals and to mentor or support students.

Because the LGBT population is an invisible minority, LGBT individuals may experience anxiety about who knows their sexual orientation or gender identity and who they can safely share that information with (Rankin, 2003). In addition, individuals who identify as LGBT are often at higher risk for substance abuse and suicide because of these issues and the lack of a positive support system. LGBT individuals do not share the same protections as other minorities groups in the United States.

While it is no longer legal to discriminate based on race, skin color, ethnicity, disability, age, sex, or veteran’s status, it is still legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Relationships may also suffer. A LGBT’s social network may ebb and flow drastically as they come out to individuals they consider “friends. ” LGBT individuals may lose some friends and gain others as they come out. This could drastically change their social network.

Similarly, LGBT individuals often face rejection from their families. This can manifest as a loss of financial assistance, being “kicked-out” of the home, or being completely cutting off from all communication and ties to their families. Harassment and abuse can also be a problem. LGBT individuals may face harassment in many different forms. LGBT individuals may encounter increased negative attitudes, jokes, verbal taunting, or bullying because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, n. d. ).

In addition, LGBT individuals may be intimidated or blackmailed by others who threaten to “out” them if they do not do something. This population may also be targets of violence. They could be targeted because they may be seen as “weaker” or less likely to either fight back or report the crime/incident (Thiel & Diehl, 2010; University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, n. d. ). LGBT individuals are less likely to report these incidents because they do not want to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to authorities for fear of further repercussions from colleagues, friends, or family.

Research shows that involvement in college life positively affects the LGBT experience (Rankin 2003). In addition, there are indications that the campus climate affects students’ social and emotional development, as well as their academic performance (National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, n. d. ). It also appears that there is much more in the way of student support on college campuses than there is faculty support. It is no surprise then, that the student experiences are somewhat better while the faculty experiences a chillier climate (Brown et al. 2004). These findings suggest that an effective strategy for improving the campus climate for LGBT students needs to include system-wide efforts and involves promoting the acknowledgement, acceptance, and affirmation of all people. Campus diversity leaders and student affairs professionals will likely to be the most receptive, while some faculty and administrators will be more supportive than others will be (Brown et al. , 2004).

Other recommendations to improve the campus climate for LGBT students include recruiting and retaining LGBT faculty, staff, and students, demonstrating institutional commitment to LGBT issues and concerns, integrating LGBT issues and concerns into the curriculum, providing educational programming on LGBT issues, and creating safe spaces for dialogue and interaction (Rankin, 2003; Liang & Alimo, 2005; University of Wisconsin Madison, 2008).

Incorporating sexual orientation and gender identity topics into student, parent, faculty, and staff orientation courses is important, as is informing parents of LGBT students about resources and services available on campus for their child (Angeli, 2009). Freshmen seminars and other first-year courses could be important venues for discussions of LGBT-related topics. Residence hall assistants (RAs) are also an important target group for training, as RAs are often a first esource for LGBT students dealing with coming out issues (Brown et al. , 2004). Other recommendations for improving student recruitment are as follows: Improve accessibility to LGBT information on college web sites (create one if there is not), attend national LGBT recruitment fairs, and work with the LGBT Campus Center to create a recruiting pamphlet on LGBT life on campus. For campuses without an LGBT Campus Center, the school should work to create one.

LGBT Centers exist to reduce violence and harassment, and aid in the effort to promote inclusion and social justice (University of Wisconsin Madison, 2008). To ensure fair and equal treatment in the classroom, the main priority for faculty is to involve the students in the process of teaching/learning. With the many races, cultures, and groups that make up classes, having a continually engaged classroom is a challenging proposition at best and no one wants to feel marginalized.

Additionally, when discussing current events, include LGBT issues as one of the topics, and be very clear with your students that homophobic and heterosexist comments and actions are not acceptable (Lock Haven University, 2000). Another initiative that could help support the LGBT student population while at the same time demonstrate institutional commitment to would to create “safe spaces” or “safe zones” where faculty/staff/students can choose to make their office or department a place for mentoring, peer counseling, dialogue, and interaction with LGBT students, faculty, and staff (Angeli, 2009).

Faculty/staff leaders should work closely with campus diversity leaders (and the LGBT Campus Organization, if there is one) to ensure the inclusion of LGBT faculty and staff in the campus’ various recruitment efforts and to provide programs and services important to LGBT faculty and staff retention. This would include working to achieve domestic partner benefits for LGBT and other unmarried campus faculty and staff, and the creation and funding of an LGBT faculty/staff mentoring program (University of Wisconsin Madison, 2008).

Such initiatives should be the combined efforts of administrative, faculty and staff representatives (University of Wisconsin Madison, 2008). Encouraging openly LGBT students, faculty, and staff to join and lead university committees and organizations without fear of repercussion is also a step in the right direction (Angeli, 2009). Campus administrators should enforce local anti-discrimination laws and policies on campus, ban discrimination in instructional materials and textbooks, and encourage the use of materials that reflect gender diversity.

Angeli (2009) reported that not all campuses have established such inclusive policies, and this leaves LGBT students without many options for repercussion when they experience discrimination. For example, hateful graffiti on campus should be removed quickly and those who did it punished appropriately. Sexual orientation and gender identity could be considered its own demographic and colleges should collect and report LGBT data in the same manner as gender, race, ethnicity, and disability data (Angeli, 2009).

As more surveys and forms include questions on sexual orientation and gender identity, and, as campuses provide assurance that students’ privacy will be protected, it is likely that data that are more complete will become available. In other words, as the climate becomes “less chilly,” more students, faculty, and staff will feel more welcomed and, thus, more likely to share more about themselves (Angeli, 2009). Positive attitudes of heterosexual peers can help to provide a campus climate that is welcoming and more supportive of the LGBT population, which may facilitate the development of a positive identity (Liang & Alimo, 2005).

Heterosexuals have a large role in perpetuating this climate, as they have been the source for much of the homonegative behavior (Liang & Alimo, 2005). If the campus promotes itself an advocate for justice, it is not enough just to change a policy or to use ‘buzzwords;’ a new culture/atmosphere has to be created. Implementing such a campus-wide approach will necessitate support from top campus administrators (Rankin, 2003; Tierney, 1992).

In addition, just because an anti-discrimination statement has been updated to include sexual orientation & gender identity, this does not mean inclusion, or even a consistent welcoming climate (University of Wisconsin Madison, 2008). Not seeing any progress in any of the areas discussed above is an indication that the campus has not yet integrated LGBT issues into the university’s understanding of its responsibilities to create a diverse and inclusive climate (Lock Haven University, 2000; University of Wisconsin Madison, 2008).

The right thing to do is to create a more welcoming campus climate for all individuals and groups by reducing violence and harassment, and advancing social justice and inclusion efforts. All groups deserve this consideration because they matter. References Angeli, M. California Postsecondary Commission at its meeting on June 9, 2009. Access and equity for all students: Meeting the needs of LGBT students. Retrieved online on March 24, 2010 from http://www. cpec. ca. gov /completereports/2009reports/09-14. pdf Brown, R. D. , Clarke, B. Gortmaker, V. , & Robinson-Keilig, R. (2004). Assessing the campus climate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students using a multiple perspectives approach. Journal of College Student Development, 45(1), 8-26. Liang, C. T. H. & Alimo, C. (2005). The impact of white heterosexual students’ interactions on attitudes toward lesbian, gay and bisexual people: A longitudinal study. Journal of College Student Development, 46(3), 237-250. Lock Haven University Safe Zone. (n. d. ). Originally written by Troy Gilbert of Stanford

University, then modified by Martha Ann Spruill (Jan 14, 2000), then modified again for the LHU community. Retrieved online on March 24, 2010 from http://www. lhup. edu/safezone/support. html National Lesbian and Gay Task Force. (n. d. ). Retrieved March 23, 2010 from www. thetaskforce. org /issues/hate_crimes_main_page/overview. Rankin, S. R. (2003). Campus climate for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people: A national perspective. New York: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. www. ngltf. org Thiel, M. J. , & Diehl, S. (2010).

Campus gay and lesbian issues in the new millennium. Retrieved on 3/20/2010 from http://www. gvsu. edu/allies/index. cfm ? id=80B3F0D0-A5DC-ECEE-44313D44883F471B University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. (n. d. ). Issues/concerns for the LGBTQ Population. Retrieved March 23, 2010 from http://safezone. uncc. edu/allies /ally-manual/issues. University of Wisconsin Madison Faculty Document 2056. (2008). Report of the committee on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. Retrieved onlineMarch 23, 2010 from http://acstaff. wisc. edu/FacDoc2056LGBT-AR07. pdf

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