This week’s constituency is one that I have little experience with, but am looking forward to enriching my knowledgeable, and that is engaging lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans students on college campuses. Chapter 8 refers to a number of issues affecting LGB undergraduates, and many of them are associated within the marginalization this constituency has faced in not only society, but in higher education. The first concept that was a learning point this week is that of identity and language. “The importance of someone’s right to name oneself and claim identity should be retained by all members of the community, not imposed by others…” (Quaye & Harper, 2015). To me, in a higher education setting, this points to inclusivity of all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation. As higher education professionals, we need to create an environment where LGB students feel comfortable in claiming their identity. I truly believe that no other constituency needs a safe space more than LGBTQ students. This is essential for them to build a network of acceptance and support, but that us not to say they should be excluded in other parts of campus. This week’s presentation and lecture notes mention that LGB students may feel campus is a safe place to explore their sexuality, so the practice of offering this constituency a safe space is even more important. The campus climate plays a huge role in the comfort level of this constituency. Campuses that have both safe spaces as well as student clubs that are accepting of all students to create a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ students. Another important point is that of faculty and staff, and ensuring they have training and resources available to them to better understand and support this constituency. This has implications both inside and outside of the classroom.
Another key learning point is the importance of finding mentors and role models, and again, this is probably more important for this constituency in comparison to others covered in this course. As mentioned in chapter 8, although LGB students may not be clearly identifiable by physical traits, it is important to create programming such as peer mentorship. A mentorship program would allow for LGB students to volunteer as both mentors and mentees and could be led by a LGB student club, for example.
A third key learning point for me was that of Queer Theory. This learning views sexuality, gender, and gender expression as fluid rather than fixed (Quaye & Harper 2015). This is an interesting perspective, which the more I think about, the more I agree with. When I hear the saying, “coming out of the closet” which signifies that someone has become open about being gay, this expression is fluid, as this openness may allow the person to express themselves more openly, and feel more comfortable about themselves. As Cass (1996) points out in the lecture notes, students need to be publicly open about their sexual identity and be active within the community in order to stay mentally healthy. This type of theory could be the basis of both student and faculty/staff workshops to create awareness of LGB students, which ultimately builds awareness on campus. In conclusion of chapter 8, I found a resource through the University of Toronto (U or T) as a part of their Sexual & Gender Diversity office which includes an inverted triangle with the pride colors that designate campus “safe spaces”. The U of T shows strong evidence of a campus climate that is inclusive to LGB students.
Chapter nine focuses on trans students, and this is a similar, yet distinct constituency in comparison to LGB students. For student affairs professionals, the focus should be on improving inclusion of trans students, and the chapter mentions that programmatic interventions and strategies have been the focus of the literature. One of the major challenges that I agree with from the reading of the chapter is the lack of faculty and staff education about trans issues, and the lack of resources that meet this constituencies’ needs. The campus as a whole needs to be looked at for inclusivity of trans students. A key learning point in this week’s lecture and presentation is that trans students have unique needs, and should not be lumped into all programmatic interventions with LGB students Questions I believe that each institution should raise are as follows: Are there gender neutral washrooms available? Are faculty and student affairs professionals been offered training on trans issues? Does campus housing take into account the needs of trans students and how do trans students identify themselves on a residence application? Another item I agree with is that institutions generally are not proactive and wait until students are on campus to address issues. This needs to change. Trans students need to feel comfortable from the orientation through graduation, and should be provided programming and services that are meeting their needs. It is important to note that student affairs practitioners should be open to allow trans students to disclose whether or not they are seeking transition services, and not to force those services upon them (Quaye & Harper, 2015). As a higher education professional of over 16 years, this is the one constituency I have not encountered in a higher education setting. The biggest takeaway for me is that it is important to listen to trans students, and not to assume you know what they are going through. I would also be interested in learning more about trans students to help me work with this constituency.
This week's photo is that of our Prime Minister (PM), Justin Trudeau participating in 2016's annual Vancouver pride parade, the first sitting PM to do so.