Black, gay, and male, were terms that could describe several of my peers at Swarthmore College. Almost all of them chose Swarthmore partly because of its LGTBQ friendly atmosphere and community. I’ve never thought of college choice as an intersection of identities and what college means to a constituency that is doubly marginalized. In fact, I can admit much of my commentary regarding students of color in higher education is heteronormative in nature. I think there has been much dialogue about mental illness, disabilities, and LGBTQ experiences on college campuses, but those conversations are all centered on white students or at least assume that all students share the same experiences, which is not true. Intersectionality is rarely evident in most commentary on student issues, which is why the articles for this week are refreshing.
In a study of 119 queer students, seventy-seven percent of them ranked a gay-friendly campus very high on the list (Burleson, 2010). Interestedly, Squire and Mobley’s (2015) study suggests that students chose schools (HBCU or PWI) based on the extent to which they identified with their sexual orientation or racial identity. Now that I reflect on my friendships with peers who identified as both black and gay and male, I remember conversations about how important attending a gay friendly school was over an HBCU. I think these kinds of studies are important for student affairs professionals and advisors. I wonder if the resources and services themselves, how we advertise them, and what we assume students need can be oppressive rather than helpful. I think it is fairly obvious that our college campuses are heteronormative in many ways.
I’ve also realized in this week’s lecture notes and articles that LGB and trans students have overlapping and unique challenges and issues. I think it is fairly common to consider transgender identity as a sexual orientation. Trans students’ unique concerns center around gender and acceptance as they navigate their own feelings about gender. It is heartbreaking to read students’ experiences with coming out to their parents. It only makes sense that they would struggle with academics and navigating college on top of those negative experiences. How can student affairs professionals assist students in navigating greek life or other gender based organizations? I definitely would like to learn more about the challenges LGB and transgender students face on college campuses.
Burleson, D. A. (2010). Sexual orientation and college choice: Considering campus climate. About Campus, 14(6), 9–14.
Pusch, R. S. (2005). Objects of curiosity: Transgender college students' perceptions of the reactions of others. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Issues in Education, 3(1), 45-61.
Squire, D. D., & Mobley, S. D. (2015). Negotiating race and sexual orientation in the college choice process of Black gay males. The Urban Review, 47(3), 466-491.