Is the LGBTQ Community Protected Enough in Higher Education?

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

The LGBTQ community in our nation has risen in the last decade, in part, because support for the community and around college campuses has risen. For starters, there are nearly one million students and more than 160,000 faculty and staff members in higher education who identify as being part of the LGBT community. Additionally, according to a 2016 Pew research poll, 57% of Americans supported same-sex marriages, and even more encouraging about this is that 71% of millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, support same-sex marriage. But, even with these uplifting numbers, it would be naive to think that the issues surrounding the horrid discrimination the LGBTQ community faces on a daily basis has been completely eradicated. Unfortunately, the same poll showed that there are still 37% of Americans who are opposed to same-sex marriages, and those numbers are even higher in niche areas of the country where the LGBTQ community is less-celebrated. That being said, it is important to take a closer look at how the LGBTQ community is treated during their years in higher education, as positive community support during those years can pave the way to a more accepting America.

The Good

A big foundation for making those who identify as LGBTQ and supporters of the community feel safe on college campuses is to have a support center. Encouraging of such advancement is that as of 2018, over 200 college campuses had an LGBTQ support center for its surrounding community. Those programs that spread across 200 universities are taking the stand that other campuses must follow. Those 200 universities are able to support and help many students who identify as LGBTQ or those supporters who want to know how to help and support the community through potential hardships. 

Also encouraging is that as of 2017, 347 institutions of higher education included sexual orientation in their campuses discrimination policy. These numbers show that not only are universities and college campuses taking more of a role in improving the life of the LGBTQ community, they are also taking a stand and holding accountable those who discriminate against the community. Colleges are unique in that they have the power to, within the confines of American Jurisprudence, make their own policies and procedures that their students must follow. By taking steps to implement LGBTQ-friendly policies, students, faculty, and staff members are encouraged to act in accordance with these policies and therefore, treat the LGBTQ community congruent to everyone else.    

The Bad

Even with these encouraging numbers, it would be misleading not to mention all those statistics that tell the story of how far we still need to come as a society. Around 13% of the LGBTQ community explained that they did not plan to attend college after high school due to the frequent verbal harassment they received while in grade school. This is an important statistic because it shows that harassment does not start in the college years, but way before it, hindering the college experience of those who identify as LGBTQ and potentially having serious consequences—including economic—for the rest of their lives. 

The Ugly

Unfortunately, it is still not a legal requirement for universities to support the LGBTQ community in any way on their campuses. Our legal system does not require campuses to be pro-LGBTQ nor do they need to encourage their faculty to be so. Legal action only comes into place if universities and/or campuses treat students or organizations differently from their non-LGBTQ identifying counterparts.

Additionally, the numbers below show how much discrimination and harassment those who identify as LGBTQ have to deal with on a daily basis. These numbers below show you how common it is to face these types of difficulties when being a part of this community. 

  • 75% LGBT students reported experiencing sexual harassment.
  • 25% people in the survey who said they were sexually harassed never reported it (according to an AAU survey).
  • 60% LGBT students had been sexually harassed while at school (according to a 2013 school climate survey).
    • And of those students who said they had been sexually harassed while at school, 18% of them said the harassment occurred often or frequently.

The Encouraging

Although we went through the good, the bad, and the ugly; we wanted to leave you with two last encouraging points of information that shows how both college campuses and their athletic programs are taking steps to improve the quality of life for the LGBTQ community. 

To begin with, according to “campus explorer,” 38 colleges offer gender-neutral housing options for LGBTQ students. This is encouraging because this housing structure allows people to choose where they live and who they live there with, regardless of one’s birth sex or identified gender. Universities are also taking further steps by making it infinitely easier for transgender students to change their names on databases and diplomas, allowing the student to ensure their diploma and identified-gender match up.

Second, taking us to the world of sports, in the spring of 2016, the NCAA demanded that all of its events take place at colleges and universities who take strides to support and protect the quality of life of those LGBTQ students. A specific example of this statement in action was when the NCAA banned NC State from hosting NCAA’s March Madness tournament due to the bathroom laws implemented that year in North Carolina. The bathroom law made everyone go to the bathroom that correlated to their born-sex, rather than go to the bathroom in which gender they identified with. Although the NCAA has not made hard and fast rules regarding the type of protection for the LGBTQ community it requires of colleges and universities, they are making headway to ensure that we are moving in the right direction. 

Overall, we as a nation are making progress, but have much more to do in the fight for equality for those in the LGBTQ community. Attorney Shubin and Shubin Law have experience dealing with discrimination issues, specifically, discrimination against the LGBTQ community. If you were discriminated against in any way because of your gender or sexual orientation and would like a better understanding of potential legal options, please contact attorney Andrew Shubin. 

  1.  Jeffrey B Trammell, LGBT Challenges in Higher Education Today: 5 Core Principles for SuccessAGB (2019), (last visited Jul 16, 2019). 
  2.  LGBTQ Students in Higher Education, PNPI (2018), (last visited Jul 18, 2019). 
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  8.  Alia Wong & Adrienne Green, LGBT Students and Campus Sexual Assault, The Atlantic (2015), (last visited Jul 15, 2019). 
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  12.  Sabia Prescott & Kristyn Lue, LGBTQ Rights on Campuses Through the Decades, New America (2017), (last visited Jul 14, 2019). 
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