Summer Homework for Straight Parents: Finding the Right College For Your GLBT Child

With summer approaching, you may be thinking about looking at colleges for your GLBT child. (Or you may want to wait until the fall when the full-time students are back in session.)
But with bullying on college campuses and intimidation contributing to the deaths of students such as Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, you want to be careful that the college is a good fit.
But how’s a straight parent supposed to know what a good fit is for his/her GLBT child?
Here Are Some Helpful Websites

There are web sites that rate whether universities are gay friendly such as the LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index. This index looks at policies, programs, and practices each institution provides to its gay community and grades the university on LGBT Policy Inclusion, LGBT Support and Institutional Commitment, LGBT Academic Life, LGBT Student Life, LGBT Housing, LGBT Campus Safety, LGBT Counseling & Health, and LGBT Recruitment and Retention Efforts. It is owned and operated by Campus Pride, the leading national nonprofit organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create safer, more LGBT-friendly learning environments at colleges and universities. It rates more than 300 college campuses based on more than two dozen issues dealing with academic and student life, policies, course offerings, campus safety and housing and health services.
The Princeton Review, a company that specializes in test preparation courses and admission consulting, also ranks “gay friendly” universities. Students can go to the Review’s website which provides guidelines for what students should look for to tell whether a campus is gay-friendly. You can get a printed survey form, where one question asks whether they think students, faculty and university administrators treat people equally regardless of their ”sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.”
Scholarships for GLBT Students

Look into PFLAG (Parents of Lesbians and Gays) or the more competitive The Point Foundation 
Know Your Rights Before You Visit

No parent likes to hear of their GLBT child being bullied so Kathy Beige, Lesbian Life suggests that you find the college’s nondiscrimination policy, either on the college’s website or in a catalogue. Does this policy include sexual orientation or gender identity? You don’t want to bother with a college that lacks this legal recourse in case you have to file suit against this institution.
What Are the Organizations in The College?

The National Consortium of Directors of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resources in Higher Education has a listing of all colleges who have gay and lesbian student organizations with paid staff. However, many gay and lesbian student organizations in colleges and universities are run by student volunteers too.
What is the Campus Life Like? 
Is there an active lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender center that has a gay faculty member overseeing it? Drop by when you are visiting the campus and talk to those students or get one’s e-mail address so you can query him/her. Do they feel “safe” being out on the campus or are they harassed? Do you see other gay students, ads on the wall for gay meetings and events?
What Classes are Offered?

If a college has a Women’s and Lesbian Studies or a Queer Studies Department, chances are the school will be queer-friendly or at least have some gay and lesbian-friendly students and staff.
What’s the College Town or City Like?

Is there an active gay community? Are there coffee shops, gay bars, bookstores?
Beware of Religious Universities And Other Strangers

The Huffington Post has a listing of the least-GLBT-friendly colleges as well as the most GLBT-accepting colleges. For the least accepting, see http:www.thehuffingtonpost2012/06/07/12-least-lgbt-friendly-colleges and for most accepting colleges, see http://www.,/2012/06/12/most-lgbt-friendly-colleges.
When Your Child is Gay

When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know

For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting as well as gay and lesbian content. For the past two years, Wesley has concentrated almost exclusively on the lesbian and gay community, specifically on advising straight parents of gay children on how to be better parents and raise happy, well-adjusted adults


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