A review of the Literature
Challenges of the LGBT population on College Campuses
A Review of the Literature
The need for institutions of higher education to stay relevant dictates that change is necessary. For most, it will require a concerted effort to embrace diversity. Racial and ethnic diversity have historically been the most widely addressed dimensions of diversity. However, as institutions continue to advance their efforts, they create a more welcoming campus climate for all individuals and groups. A current focus of diversity efforts includes the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population. This review will look at the issues and challenges of the LGBT population on college campuses; mainly covering the need to ease the levels violence and harassment on campuses and the desire for inclusion and social justice, and suggesting strategies to address these issues. Due to the nature of the coming out process, there are fundamental challenges to learning the experiences of the LGBT population. The labels lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender as sexual identity labels present particular problems: A student may be able to articulate feelings of attraction to the same-sex, though are reluctant to adopt the label of lesbian, gay and/or bisexual (Rankin 2003). The challenges that the LGBT population face are neither new nor surprising but the need to address them is certainly relevant (Thiel, 2010). In fact, it appears that for as much progress that has been made on some campuses, there has been no progress on others. The presence of violence and harassment, as well as the desire for inclusion and justice, indicates the need for attention and research as a chilly campus climate can make for a distressing experience for LGBT students, faculty, and staff. As might be expected, LGBT students’ perceptions of the campus climate and their experiences differ from those of other members of the campus community (Rankin, 2003; Liang & Alimo, 2005). Some LGBT students feel that they are treated different because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They have difficulty achieving their full academic potential and trouble fully participating in the campus community (Rankin, 2003; Brown, Clarke, Gortmaker, & Robinson-Keilig, 2004). In a study by Liang & Alimo (2005), students shared that they had been discriminated against, physically assaulted and harassed in residence halls, and marginalized in their classes. Physical and verbal anti-gay and lesbian harassment has been documented on all campuses where research on the LGBT population has been conducted, and these behaviors seem to be on the rise nationwide (National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, n.d.). This homonegativity affects LGBT individuals’ physical as well as psychological health (Liang & Alimo, 2005). The LGBT campus experience is at best benign and at worst hostile (Rankin, 2003). Among these challenges, Rankin (2003) states are mental health issues, discrimination, relationship issues, and harassment/abuse. Likewise, LGBT faculty, staff, and administrators may suffer because of the same prejudices, limiting their ability to achieve their career goals and to mentor or support students.
Because the LGBT population is an invisible minority, LGBT individuals may experience anxiety about who knows their sexual orientation or gender identity and who they can safely share that information with (Rankin, 2003). In addition, individuals who identify as LGBT are often at higher risk for substance abuse and suicide because of these issues and the lack of a positive support system. LGBT individuals do not share the same protections as other minorities groups in the United States. While it is no longer legal to discriminate based on race, skin color, ethnicity, disability, age, sex, or veteran’s status, it is still legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or...