No doubt about it—choosing a college is a taxing feat culminating in ice cream binge sessions and stress breakouts. Do you want a small town feel or a big city experience? What about travel abroad and internship options? The process could make anyone want to tear their hair out. But when you’re LGBTQ, you have to consider a whole other set of parameters. Does the school offer representative courses? What about gender-neutral housing and restrooms? And most importantly, will the campus feel safe and supportive? Take a deep breath, sit back and relax. These colleges support the LGBTQ community through curriculum and extra-curriculars to medical care and discrimination policies. Prepare for a campus experience with the safest and most vivacious college environments around.
Check out the ten campuses where LGBT students will feel at home.
10. University of Vermont
Ah, Vermont. The land of the LGBTQ community’s greatest allies, Ben and Jerry. First-year UVM students can opt to live in the LGBTQA First Year Suite and returning students can choose the LGBTQA Collaborative. On top of providing a safe living space, the Collaborative hosts events that would make even the most anti-social introvert say, “Count me in.” Who could say no to a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream social or a queer prom? When it comes to education, interested students can take classes like “LGBTQ Health Disparities” and “Queer Lives: LGBT History”. Plus, incoming students who love the feeling of fresh air in their lungs can participate in the first-ever Pride Trek. LGBTQ+ students of the incoming class can choose to spend five nights hiking and exploring Vermont’s mountains pre-move in. Now, that’s a bonding experience.
9. Mount Holyoke College
History lesson: Did you know Mount Holyoke became the second all women’s college in the country to accept transgender applicants? How cool is that? Students can find gender-inclusive restrooms in every building on campus. Looking for a setting to explore your identity? Consider joining the Mary Woolley living-learning community. The LLC gets its name from MHC’s 11th president Mary Woolley, who laid the foundation for LGBTQ inclusivity and who herself had a lifelong partner named Janette Marks. Marks also worked at the university as an English professor. “It’s very cool that we have LGBTQ history woven into the fabric of MHC,” said recent graduate Caroline Camuso about Woolley’s legacy. The university also works with Amherst College, Hampshire College, Smith College and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst to offer a certificate in Queer and Sexuality Studies. The certificate offers courses like “Black Sexualities,” “Reproductive and Genetic Tech” and “Feminist Health Politics.”
8. Portland State University
Want to keep your calendar booked throughout your college experience? Try Portland State University. “One of the things that surprised me the most about PSU was just how open everyone is,” said PSU senior Ella Farren. “With events like OUTober where people can elect to ‘out’ themselves, you really feel that sense of community.” PSU fills the month of November with TEMPRR Days. Standing for Trans Empowerment, Resilience and Resistance, TEMPRR has become an annual event that empowers the trans community. This year’s TEMPRR Days will include a “Questioning Your Gender” panel and a presentation put on by America In Transition called “Unlearning White Supremacy in LGBT Spaces”. TEMPRR also hosts gender-affirming clothing swaps and a splash mob. Additionally, PSU recently implemented a Queer Career Series, a new program that addresses the needs of queer and trans students navigating the job world.
Check out the splash mob fun:
7. UC Berkeley
No matter your niche, UC Berkeley’s got you covered. With 30 different LGBT+ organizations and groups, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better sense of LGBTQ comradery anywhere else. UCB students passionately fight to make their campus a welcoming place, even when the school’s administration lags behind. “It’s Berkeley’s queer/trans identifying-students who create that inimitable culture that people around the world admire; our students forge atmospheres of overwhelming-acceptance that make Berkeley’s enormous campus feel just a little bit smaller and a lot more connected,” shared Political Science student and ASUC Senator Teddy Lake. That sense of community can also be felt just a short BART ride away at San Francisco’s Pride every June. This year alone saw nearly one million people gathered for the Pride Parade.
6. New York University
Looking for the ultimate college experience? Head to the Big Apple. Specifically, NYU. Both on and off campus, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a thriving LGBTQ community. The school also makes special strides to honor the gender identities of its trans and non-binary students. “Institutionally, NYU has many policies that affirm the gender identity and the preferred names of transgender and gender non-conforming students and nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as well as mechanisms for students, staff, and faculty to report any bias experienced against these identities,” said LGBTQ Student Center Program Administrator Lukas La Rivière. Since 2008, students have also had the option to be housed based on their gender identity rather than their assigned gender. They can’t guarantee you and your roommate will become besties, but they can help make sure your identity gets the respect it deserves.
5. Princeton University
Whether you need someone to talk to or want to be a shoulder to lean on, check out Princeton’s Peer Educator program. Peer educators work on and off campus to inform the public about LGBTQIA issues. They also are a confidential source for students on campus with any questions or concerns about homophobia, transphobia and stereotyping of LGBTQIA folk. On top of that, the university offers a semester-long workshop called #Woke101. Focusing on issues of diversity, the workshop is designed to educate the PU body on issues concerning racism and gender and identity. Princeton also makes sure to work from the top, down. Staff and faculty find encouragement to educate themselves via the annual Ally Project Training. Sponsored by the LGBT Center, the training educates staff about available resources on-campus and on appropriate terminology and language.
4. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
If a classic college town is what you’re after, look no further. University of Michigan offers the diversity and tolerance of a big city in a cozy setting. “Overall I felt very safe and supported during my time at Michigan,” said recent graduate Ezra Flohr. “The school is huge, so while I’m sure there are people on campus who are anti-LGBT, the general atmosphere was overwhelmingly supportive and welcoming. I think that can largely be attributed to the Spectrum Center and the work they do, along with the medical resources offered by health services.” Turns out there’s a reason UofM’s hospital is nationally ranked. They offer hormone therapy, voice therapy, chest surgery and hair removal on top of any mental health support a patient may want. Ready to hit the town? AA’s got what you need. Flohr added, “There are also a lot of LGBT institutions in Ann Arbor like Necto [a nightclub] and \aut\ BAR that help foster that sense of community. Also, \aut\ has the best brunch ever.” Bottomless mimosas anyone?
3. Kent State University
Looking to dive into the LGBTQ world of academia? Kent State offers an LGBTQ Studies minor (which just so happens to be the oldest Sexuality Studies program in Ohio). The department even spearheaded the LGBTQ Neighborhoods Project, a student-focused research endeavor that explored the LGBTQ community in Akron’s Highland Square neighborhood. From recorded oral history interviews of the neighborhood’s gay, lesbian, and transgender residents, the project created a 20-minute documentary called Highland Lives. How cool is that? When you want to kick back and relax, check out the LGBTQ Student Center’s calendar. Hilariously named the Gay Agenda, you’ll find everything from “Crafternoons” to ally-trainings. Plus, the university works with the rest of Ohio in their mission to do right by their LGBTQ students. “Kent State excels in terms of LGBTQ issues by signing onto the Ohio Business Competes Coalition, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of Ohio businesses, law firms, universities, and nonprofit organizations which support a state law prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people,” said MJ Eckhouse, Editor-in-Chief of Kent State’s Fusion Magazine.
2. University of Pennsylvania
With one of the oldest LGBT centers in the country, it’s no wonder UPenn offers one of the most inclusive atmospheres for LGBTQ students. “We have a preferred name policy in place that greatly benefits transgender students, several gender-neutral bathrooms around campus and an available map to them online, the Safe Zone training program, which helps staff become acquainted with LGBT issues, gender-neutral housing options, and an entire LGBT Center dedicated to LGBT student groups,” said Amber Auslander, Internal Affairs Chair of Penn Non-Cis. In terms of healthcare, Penn Medicine comes through for the trans community. Penn Medicine offers a Transgender Patient Advocacy Program that provides advocates for trans and gender-queer patients. These advocates assist with finding providers, making appointments and ensuring that their patients receive optimal care. Plus, you can’t beat the location. From U Bar to Woody’s, Philly offers a wild (and welcoming) nightlife scene where you can let off some post-finals steam.
1. University of Louisville
In the stereotypically anti-LGBTQ south lies a haven for everyone on the gender spectrum: the University of Louisville. “Two academic points of pride include our LGBT Studies Minor that allows students to study their history, culture, and to learn about LGBTQ life. It’s led by our Audre Lorde Chair for Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality,” shared Brian Buford, Assistant Provost for Diversity & LGBT Center Executive Director. “The other is called the eQuality project, which infused the curriculum in the School of Medicine for first and second-year medical students with LGBT competencies that had been identified by the American Association of Medical Colleges.” As it turns out, U of L was the first university in the US to ensure their future doctors kept LGBTQ patient needs in mind.
In terms of housing, check out the Bayard Rustin Themed Housing Community. For the LGBTQ+ community and allies, the housing center is the first of its kind in the region. “One of the highlights of the experience is a biannual trip to Alabama to learn about the Civil Rights Movement and how it paved the way for LGBT rights later,” said Buford. On the trip, students make their way from through Alabama and end in Memphis, Tennessee. That’s the kind of intersectionalism we like to see happening. Check out the campus on OUTLook Day with other LGBTQ high school students. “We do all the traditional admissions activities of a campus tour, etc. but all with a focus on things that LGBT students are most interested in,” explained Buford.