Every day, we work on making our colleges and universities more accessible, safer, and better for our students. Several months ago, issues surrounding sensitivity to race created a stir on campuses nationwide. More recently, talk has turned to issues surrounding Title IX and what institutions are doing about sexual assault and helping survivors. Lately, another issue has been cropping up: The issue of how to make university and college campuses a safe space for students and faculty who identify as trans or transgender. For a person who doesn’t identify with their sex assigned at birth, safe spaces are very important. More than 1 in 4 people who are transgender have been targets of bias-related violence. Our campuses need to be safe for all of our students, and that includes those who identify as LGBTQ. (Unsure about what we mean by sex assigned at birth, trans, and other vocab? Check out this Gender Unicorn to learn about gender identity, romantic attraction, and sexual attraction). The Campus Pride Index rates colleges and universities on how LGBTQ friendly they are. Using a scorecard of fifty different items, the index rates schools on how positive an environment each one has created for LGBTQ students and staff. This resource lists 222 schools and uses this 50-item report card to evaluate each, resulting in a rating out of a possible 5 stars.
6 Things You Can Do Right Now to Make Your Campus a LGBTQ-Positive Environment
1.Create an LGBTQ & Ally Student Organization:
One thing that helps students feel safe and wanted on campus is when they have a community of people that they can interact with. If you don’t already have a student organization on campus like an LGBTQ/Ally Alliance, check with your Student Government on how to go about creating a one. Then, hold an interest meeting. There, you can define goals for this group and get people excited about creating the group. Make sure you follow the guidelines for creating a student organization, and start holding weekly meetings.
2.Allow Students to Identify their Gender and Preferred Name on Forms:
On a large scale, it’s ideal if the Admissions and Financial Aid processes allowed students to self-identify their gender and prefered name on entrance and scholarship forms. However, if you manage forms or applications for anything else (student organization sign ups, surveys, student employment…) add a line for preferred name. Then, ask yourself if you really need to know the gender of your applicant. If you believe it’s necessary, start by changing the wording from “Sex” to “Gender” on the question. Then change the answer from a radio button of male or female to a short answer. This gives students the ability to freely identify themselves.
3.Plan LGBTQ Social Activities:
Once you have an active LGBTQ/Ally group on campus, plan some activities. This can be anything from a movie night, eating out or a trip to a PRIDE parade. The point here is to make sure that students have the opportunity to interact with one another and form bonds with other students who identify as LGBTQ or allies.
4.Gender Inclusive Housing for New and Returning Students:
Creating housing — whether it’s all of campus or select residence halls — that is not dependent on a person’s gender will score points on the Pride index and with students. This makes finding a roommate, who the student is comfortable with, easier, and does not accidentally “out” a student to their peers, which can be potentially dangerous.
5.Gender Inclusive/Single Occupancy Restroom Facilities in Housing and Across Campus:
Along with inclusive rooms, working with housing and administration to designate all-gender bathrooms can go a long way in promoting a safe campus environment for students. In one study, 70% of trans individuals who responded, reported they had been victims of verbal or physical abuse in a restroom, relating to transphobia.
6.Staff Training on LGBTQ Issues and Gender Identity/Expression:
This is mostly for Residence Life, student worker training, and Campus Security training. However, anyone who works on campus will benefit from a crash course on how to be LGBTQ inclusive. Training ranges from teaching about proper verbiage to education on issues facing the community. Check out the The National Center on Transgender Equality’s outline for teaching trans topics, here. These six things do not a comprehensive LGBTQ community make. However, they are a start. If you get started today then perhaps this time next year your school will be promoting their first Lavender Graduation Ceremony, honoring the contributions to the school made by LGBTQ students. Check out These Resources For More Information: http://www.transequality.org/http://www.transstudent.org/