If you or a loved one is looking for trans-inclusive and LGBTQIA+-friendly colleges, you may wonder how to choose a school, which resources are available, and how to access those resources safely. I spoke with Angel Celeste Collie, the Interim Director at the Duke Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, for practical tips about how high school students can find a college that feels as inclusive as possible. We also discussed resources available on many campuses and how to access those resources safely.
Choosing LGBTQIA+ Friendly Colleges: Start with Campus Pride
As a first step, Collie recommended starting with Campus Pride to help you generate a list of schools. You may find it helpful to use search terms such as “top twenty-five inclusive colleges for LGBTQIA+ students” and “top-ranked 4-year institutions for LGBTQIA+ students” to help form an initial list of colleges with an LGBTQIA+-friendly reputation.
Evaluate LGBTQIA+ Resources on Campus
As you compare universities, evaluate specific resources such as gender-nonspecific housing, gender-nonspecific restrooms, percentage of buildings with gender-non-specific toilets, campus policies around bathroom access for new construction, and access to trans-affirming healthcare at student health. Students can also look for student groups, coursework in trans studies, or gender diversity and whether their identities are reflected by leadership and faculty.
It’s also important to consider your academic interests, such as your choice of major. “External resources are great,” Collie said, “but every college will have a different dynamic.” Visit if you can, but if not, see if you can get in touch with a college remotely. You can also connect college LGBTQIA+ centers through social media such as Instagram.
Connect with Current Students
“Contact centers like ours to get in touch with current students,” Collie said. While Human Rights Campaign and Campus Pride are valuable “mechanisms for scoring how an institution looks on paper,” Collie emphasized the value of connecting with current students with queer, LGBTQIA+, or other marginalized identities. [easy-tweet tweet=” Speaking with current students can help you evaluate whether a campus is a good fit, whether students are being treated well, and the challenges students face on campus with LGBTQIA+ inclusiveness. “]
“No university system is perfect,” Collie said, “but this research process can help you evaluate whether a school is a good fit for you.”
Getting Help from the Admissions Office
You can also contact admissions to ask about campus resources. Collie recommended asking questions like, “What LGBTQIA+ resources do you have available?” and “What mechanisms do you have in place to ensure this is a good experience for me?”
“If they can’t answer, that should be a red flag,” Collie stated. He also recommended contacting a college’s sexual and gender diversity office to see if they get back to you.
Visiting LGBTQIA+ Friendly Colleges Campus
Admissions offices sometimes work with admitted LGBTQIA+ students and students of other marginalized identities to arrange a visit. If a campus visit would help you evaluate whether you feel safe on campus, but finances are a barrier, colleges can sometimes help fund your stay.
Online LGBTQIA+ Resources
Don’t forget to read the information available on university LGBTQIA+ centers’ websites. You can often get answers to common questions, such as whether the university pharmacy fills prescriptions for hormone therapy and how to change your legal name in campus records. Some universities can help you access a trans-affirming or trans-identifying therapist on campus or in the community if you need mental health services.
Accessing LGBTQIA+ Resources Privately and Safely
If you want to connect with a college LGBTQIA+ center and have privacy concerns, many universities have mechanisms to help support you. If leaving an email record is not safe for you, you can connect with campus centers through phone or Instagram.
Collie also explained that Duke’s Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity staff members try to be as active as possible on campus to help protect student privacy. For example, Collie meets with all students, not just LGBTQIA+ students, which helps ensure that students can get a meeting without automatically sharing their identity with peers or faculty. Collie also attends events like orientation to help provide opportunities for students to meet him and learn about CSGD.
Visiting Your College LGBTQ+ Center
It’s also worthwhile to check where the campus LGBTQ+ center is located and whether the school has taken steps to make it accessible. For example, Duke’s center is prominently located in the student union and holds activities for a large number of student activities (not just LGBTQIA+ resources). Using the space for many different events allows students to visit without revealing or disclosing their identities. If you do not feel comfortable entering a campus LGBTQIA+ center but need access, some schools have a private or back entrance through a neighboring office.
Collie also emphasized that staff in the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity office are well-trained to be as sensitive as possible about protecting student information. For example, if you change your name and/or pronouns in Duke’s system, you will be informed of where this information might appear. Duke also purposefully includes allies in invites to LGBTQIA+ events. If you do not feel comfortable labeling yourself, you can still attend LGBTQIA+ events without disclosing information about your identity.
While you may or may not have had access to safer spaces in the past, many university staff are working to ensure that you have support when you need it. Some schools have LGBTQIA+ people in prominent roles so that you can easily connect with someone with lived experience and professional training. Doing your research before you apply to colleges can help you ensure that you attend a school with plenty of LGBTQIA+ resources if you need them.
Learn more about why LGBTQ+ inclusivity matters in higher education.