For LGBTQIA+ students and patients, obtaining healthcare presents a series of challenges from the start. Medical professionals can lack the training needed to provide specialized care to patients who identify as LGBTQIA+. This educational gap has led to health disparities within the LGBTQIA+ community who experience disproportionate rates of suicide, homelessness, substance abuse, HIV, and mental health disorders.
However, schools across the U.S. are beginning to provide students and faculty with the tools needed to foster positive change. Curriculum reform, faculty development, and increased recruitment efforts are preparing students to care for a more diverse patient population when they leave school. This guide takes a deeper look into the challenges LGBTQIA+ students face in the classroom, in hospitals and clinics, and on college campuses. We offer actionable solutions to the education- and healthcare-related barriers they must overcome.
LGBTQIA+ Challenges in Healthcare
Approximately 3.5% of Americans identify as LGBTQIA+. Many of these individuals have significant difficulties when trying to locate the healthcare they need. Commonplace policies and practices at healthcare facilities that assume that all of their patients identify as heterosexual may leave LGBTQIA+ patients feeling judged, ashamed, and embarrassed. Basic medical intake forms with heteronormative fields such as male or female and marital status, for example, can cause immediate hurdles for LGBTQIA+ individuals as soon as they enter a clinic.
The non-inclusive nature of these medical policies does not necessarily mean that a particular healthcare provider does not support people in the LGBTQIA+ community. Individual providers may be an unbiased party but work for an outdated facility with antiquated practices and unintentional or systemic omissions in place. Whatever the reason for these problematic, narrow, and restricting practices in healthcare, LGBTQIA+ people today often receive suboptimal healthcare. In the sections that follow, we consider in more detail the challenges they face and how all of us can affect positive change for the common good.
Challenge: Underrepresentation in Healthcare Roles
One of the ways that healthcare providers fail to support LGBTQIA+ is a lack of knowledgeable staff members. For many individuals, particularly those in remote and rural communities, finding a healthcare provider with the necessary training or professional experience to treat people from all walks of life, including members of sexual and gender minority (SGM) groups, can be extremely difficult. Aside from feeling comfortable and free of discrimination and ostracism, LGBTQIA+ patients will receive the best care from culturally-sensitive and informed healthcare providers, including those providers who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community themselves.
According to an article published by the Harvard Medical School, this limited access to affirming healthcare causes staggering health disparities among SGM groups. The article cites recent research conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which showed that transgender people, for example, experience extremely high rates substance abuse, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, suicide, and homelessness.
Solution: Recruitment & Retention of LGBTQIA+ Staff
Medical facilities need to actively recruit and work to retain LGBTQIA+ staff members. While this may not solve all related staffing issues for facilities in remote locations, the effort to hire individuals with the proper training and backgrounds increases the likelihood that patients will receive the care they need.
Solution: Policies that Mandate the Hiring of a Certain Number of LGBTQIA+ Providers
Hospitals and clinics should be required to retain a certain percentage of LGBTQIA+ members on their staff. In addition to having more informed medical professionals working in one facility, a diversified community creates a more welcoming environment. Patients who feel affirmed and safe are more likely to return to a facility for regular care or seek out medical treatment when needed.
Challenge: Discrimination by Healthcare Providers
Discrimination against LGBTQIA+ patients can exist in many forms. From an uninformed, culturally insensitive staff to outdated medical forms and literature that assumes that all patients are heterosexual. Those they may seem like minor or insignificant characteristics of a discriminating provider, they do not go unnoticed by LGBTQIA+ patients and allies. A facility’s insensitivity to LGBTQIA+ patient needs, or lack of knowledge thereof, can prevent individuals from receiving the medical care they need.
Solution: Anti-Discrimination Policies
Healthcare providers and related organizations should have a visible non-discrimination policy. Facilities need to ensure their medical literature, posters, or any other visible content in the office incorporates diverse images and symbols of inclusiveness. Medical forms should ask for patients’ preferred names and pronouns so that staff may address them correctly.
Solution: Cultural Competency Training
Healthcare providers can ensure their staff receives cultural competency training, including the use of inclusive and gender-neutral language. Staff members need to develop communication and listening skills that help them engage with patients on their terms and in a sensitive manner.
Challenge: Lack of Training on LGBTQIA+ Related Health Issues
The lack of proper medical care for LGBTQIA+ patients is, in part, directly tied to professionals’ inadequate medical training in relevant health issues. Patients of all backgrounds want their doctors to understand them and their medical history. LGBTQIA+ patients deserve the same level of comfort and reassurance that they are consulting a medical professional that possesses the unique knowledge to treat them properly.
Recently, Harvard Medical School’s students, staff, and faculty created a three-year SGM health equity initiative to improve upon the doctoral curriculum at the school. Its intention is to ensure that faculty and students learn to provide holistic healthcare for LGBTQIA+ patients of all ages. The initiative also features a faculty reform component that strives to increase the school’s efforts to support and recruit students, staff, and other faculty with experience or medical interest in SGM health.
Solution: Additional Training for Doctors and Healthcare Providers
Similar to the efforts at Harvard Medical School, any type of continuing education courses for licensure or certification renewal needs to include detailed information on SGM health. This holds especially true for healthcare providers in specialized areas of the field where there is a fewer number of overall professionals.
Challenge: Knowing the Terminology
In healthcare settings, especially in clinics and hospitals, language is our primary source of communication. As a result, the words we use are extremely important, especially with patients in fragile physical or mental states. Medical professionals and laypeople alike should understand and use inclusive terminology and sensitive identifiers commonly used by LGBTQIA+ individuals. We include here a terminology table for reference.
Solution: Use of the Proper Terminology
One way to familiarize oneself with the proper terminology is to have a conversation with an informed individual or someone who identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. While searching for terms on the internet can be helpful, you are more likely to use appropriate language if you learn from someone in-person.
|Ally||An ally is an individual who speaks out and stands up for a person or group that is targeted and discriminated against. An ally works to end oppression by supporting and advocating for people who are stigmatized, discriminated against or treated unfairly.|
|Asexual||A person who does not experience sexual attraction; they may or may not experience emotional, physical, or romantic attraction. Asexuality differs from celibacy in that it is a sexual orientation, not a choice.|
|Assigned at Birth||Commonly utilized by trans individuals, the term illustrates that the individual’s sex (and subsequently gender in early life) was assigned without involving the person whose sex was being assigned. |
|Bisexual||A person who is attracted to members of more than one gender; does not have to be a preference for one gender over another.|
|Cisgender||Someone who identifies with the gender identity/expression expectations assigned to them based on their physical sex at birth.|
|Gay||A common term for men who are attracted to other men; also, an umbrella term used to refer to the LGBTQ community as a whole.|
|Gender Binary||The division of gender into two distinct and opposite categories (man and woman). The gender binary is recognized as a social construct, as there are many identities in-between and outside of these categories.|
|Gender Identity||The internal perception of one’s gender, and how they label themselves, based on how much they align or don’t align with what they understand their options for gender to be.|
|Heterosexism||The societal/cultural, institutional, and individual beliefs and practices that privilege heterosexuals and disparage LGBQ people. The critical element that differentiates heterosexism (or any other “ism”) from prejudice and discrimination is the use of institutional power and authority to support prejudices and enforce discriminatory behaviors in systematic ways with far-reaching outcomes and effects.|
|Intersex||A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.|
|Pansexual|| Attraction toward people of all genders, including those who identify as transgender, transsexual, androgynous, genderqueer, agender, and all other gender identifications, as well as those who do not feel they have a gender; pansexuality is often confused or intermeshed in definition with bisexuality.|
|Transgender||An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression does not conform to that typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.|
|Queer||n umbrella term which embraces a matrix of sexual preferences, orientations, and habits of the not-exclusively- heterosexual-and-monogamous majority; also a sexual orientation or gender identity label denoting a non-heterosexual and/or non-cisgender orientation.|
|Questioning||The process of exploring one’s own sexual orientation or gender identity, investigating influences that may come from their family, religious upbringing, and internal motivations.|
Challenge: Health Insurance Denying Coverage for LGBTQIA+ Issues
While the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. has provided millions of individuals with health insurance coverage, not all populations receive the same level of benefits. Health insurance companies often deny coverage for LGBTQIA+ health-related issues. For example, patients who receive a “gender dysphoria” diagnosis, which is widely used to refer to the emotional stress experienced by transgender people, often do not receive the necessary medical coverage to see a therapist or counselor. Hormonal therapy drugs are also typically not covered by insurance plans. To pay for medical treatment without sufficient coverage usually means incurring exorbitant expenses. Almost half of transgender individuals in the U.S. postpone or forego medical treatment because they cannot afford it.
Solution: Doctors Fighting for Coverage
One of the ways that doctors can fight for LGBTQIA+ equality and advocate for their coverage by health insurance companies is to closely follow professional organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and advocacy groups like the National Center for Transgender Equality. By staying up-to-date on current insurance policies and federal and state laws, doctors can ensure that insurance companies do not place limits on medical coverage if those limits are discriminatory.
LGBTQIA+ Challenges in Healthcare Education
The health disparities faced by the LGBTQIA+ community are, in part, created by limited LGBTQIA+ focused education and cultural competency training in medical and healthcare curricula. In recent years, various national healthcare organizations have encouraged medical schools, nursing schools, and other healthcare education programs to include LGBTQIA+ health concerns in their curricula, recommending faculty development, education, and training in topics pertaining to LGBTQIA+ health. Addressing these concerns in the classroom can result in a more welcoming environment in the exam room.
Ensuring that our medical care providers receive holistic, exhaustive training in their areas of expertise, which includes understanding and treating medical issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ is of the utmost importance. In the aforementioned article published by Harvard, Ed Hundert, the dean for medical education states that, “The most powerful vehicle to affect durable, meaningful change across current and future generations of conditions in all specialties caring for LGBTQ patients is singular: education.” While it is important that up and coming medical professionals receive training that is inclusive of all lifestyles and identities, medical professionals who currently practice today also need to be held to the same standards through required continuing education classes.
In the sections that follow, we examine some weak areas in healthcare education and school procedures and offer some potential solutions to improve upon the current medical education system.
Challenge: Underrepresentation in Schools
Some colleges and universities make a more significant, concerted effort to enroll LGBTQIA+ students than others. Many institutions offer a resource center on campus with counseling services, special mentoring, and supportive events. In some cases, colleges and universities will offer gender-neutral housing options. These types of resource centers, institutional policies, and student activity groups contribute to a campus climate that is supportive of all students. Schools with these characteristics also offer a more welcoming community for staff, faculty, and alumni. These schools are also more likely to attract a more diverse student population over colleges with no recruitment and retention initiatives.
Solution: Recruitment and Retention Efforts for LGBTQIA+ Students
One example of a school striving to retain and recruit LGBTQIA+ students is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT is a top-tier institution with resident life and healthcare services available to all students regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identities, or expressions. The school also features single-occupancy restrooms and showers in residence halls. MIT’s student health insurance also covers hormone replacement therapy and counseling services.
Challenge: Lack of LGBTQIA+ Curricular Content
In many cases, the LGBTQIA+ community receive inadequate healthcare or are entirely denied treatment because medical students are unprepared or unwilling to handle medical examinations and procedures outside of the narrow, heteronormative expectations. Some faculty, students, and staff at various colleges and universities across the U.S. are working to ensure that medical students gain a more comprehensive education and enforce equal LGBTQIA+ inclusive policies for all patients.
Solution: Curriculum Reform
For students, faculty, and administrators who wish to instill more inclusive and holistic training in medical school curricula, it is not necessarily a matter of adding a plethora of new material. Rather, these individuals striving for an overhaul of curricular content suggest rewriting incorrect or antiquated medical information, updating language use and medical terms, and including better explanations of how sex and gender operate in today’s cultural and medical climates.
Challenge: Teachers Lacking the Proper Training
Educators at all levels, including elementary, middle, and high schools need to be informed in order to teach their students properly about LGBTQIA+ health issues. Today, there are many online resources for educators to learn how to become supportive allies of LGBTQIA+ youth. Educators are also in unique positions to discuss bullying, family diversity, and gender roles with their students. Teachers can learn how to incorporate positive representations of LGBTQIA+ people in their curricula and they can ensure that students obtain more inclusive sex education and at least a general understanding of issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community today. By raising awareness of violence and harassment, students are more likely to identify these situations and seek out administrators or authorities when they witness acts of discrimination.
Solution: Teaching the Teachers
Schools need to put in place initiatives that provide regular training for their teachers and faculty on LGBTQIA+ health and discrimination in educational settings. Administrators, school counselors, teachers, and more can directly contact organization such as the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to obtain access to additional resources and learning materials for their schools. Ideally, school administrators create mandatory annual training sessions or workshops for teachers and faculty to receive up-to-date information on LGBTQIA+ health.
Challenge: Harassment & Discrimination from Students
From verbal taunting and bullying to physical abuse and even sexual assault, LGTBQIA+ students are at a higher risk for all types of harassment when they enter college. Some schools have taken active measures to handle these LGBTQIA+ motivated offenses, have created specific on-campus policies, and provided special training to their campus police.
Discrimination from other students, teachers, and faculty greatly impact the quality of education that LGBTQIA+ learners receive. Students who feel uncomfortable in educational settings because of their gender identity, sexual orientation, or other personal factors cannot learn to the best of their abilities. Even LGBTQIA+ students pursuing degrees in medical schools, a field where many would expect to find understanding faculty, colleagues, and allies, cannot live their fullest lives and be themselves while enrolled out of fear of discrimination. A recent study published in the Stanford Medicine Online News Center shows that 30% of medical students who identify as sexual minorities hide their sexual and gender identities while working toward their degrees.
While many colleges across the country provide LGBTQIA+ support centers and services, students’ experiences with harassment before applying to higher education institutions affects college enrollment rates. Studies by the Postsecondary National Policy Institute show that 13.4% of LGBTQIA+ high school students who experienced bullying and other types of abuse do not plan on attending college upon graduation.
The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) argues that effective anti-bullying school policies need to include specific protections for all individuals (regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, actual or perceived sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression), strong accountability provision, and professional development services for school faculty and staff. As of 2015, GLSEN’s study found that only 3% of anti-bullying school policies in the U.S. include all three of these components.
When students choose
not to pursue higher education out of fear of bullying, mistreatment,
and violence, anti-bullying and inclusive policies need to be in
place at all public and private educational institutions, including
elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as college and
Solution: Anti-bullying & Inclusion Policies
An increasing number of campuses are advancing their diversity initiatives to help students who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Inclusion and anti-discrimination policies with explicit references to students signal the administration’s commitment to supporting and welcoming these students into their institution.
Solution: Anti-Discrimination Policy & Implementation
It is essential for colleges and universities to incorporate in their anti-discrimination policies and laws explicit language that protects students against violence and harassment based on sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. Vanderbilt University, for example, implements a LGBTQIA+ inclusive anti-harassment policy. Violators of these policies can be expelled or lose their jobs and are considered to be in violation of federal law.
Challenge: Social Isolation in Schools
Loneliness is a common issue faced by LGBTQIA+ students who attend a college without a strong, like-minded community present. Enrolling at a school with a robust LGBTQIA+ support system, including LGBTQIA+ resources centers, student organizations, and student activities, can help combat these feelings of isolation.
According to Dr. Michael Johnson, a writer for the Lavender Health LGBTQ Resource Center, isolation and loneliness crop up in our lives in various ways. Cited in an article, “Tacking Lonliness in the LGBTQ+ Community,” Johnson identifies five phases of isolation commonly experienced in the LGBTQIA+ community: social isolation, emotional isolation, cognitive isolation, concealment of identity, and recognition that one is different from a heteronormative society. To remedy these feelings, resources at Maryville University suggest that students develop a regular exercise routine, maintain a balanced diet, and get enough sleep on a nightly basis. Additionally, students can overcome isolation by taking advantage of available social opportunities such as on-campus mentors and LGBTQIA+ advising programs, friendships, study groups, and even teachers.
Solution: LGBTQIA+ Mentor Programs
Mentorship programs on campuses are invaluable resources for students of all walks of life. Mentoring relationships between students and faculty help provide regular support and guidance through college life. These services for the LGBTQIA+ community help increase the visibility of LGBTQIA+ professionals on campus, connect students to the larger LGBTQIA+ study body, and, most importantly, help students feel supported, affirmed, and in-touch with people who understand them.
Whether they are student-led or created by faculty, special events give LGBTQIA+ students the opportunity to explore their interests alongside other members of their community. Checking out your potential college’s event calendar can give you an idea of their level of commitment to hosting LGBTQIA+ friendly events. The campus calendar and types of student-led interest groups or clubs can be a strong indication of the size of its LGBTQIA+ student population. Here are some of the major events to look for on your college’s events calendars:
- Celebration of LGBTQ History Month
- National Coming Out Week
- National Transgender Day
- LGBTQ leadership events
- AIDS/HIV walks and runs
- Concerts and events that benefit LGBTQIA+ organizations
Challenge: Stress, Depression, & Anxiety
When you are in a constant state of worry over potential discrimination, harassment, oppression, being outed, and all the other stressors that come along with being an LGBTQIA+ student, the anxiety can be overwhelming. On top of that, feelings of isolation and loneliness can easily lead to serious depression problems. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is three times more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. To address these increased health risks, many colleges have specially trained counselors on-site to handle LGBTQIA+ related issues.
Solution: Health & Counseling Services
Affirmative therapy groups both on and off campus can provide the necessary mental health support and serve as a safe place for LGBTQIA+ students suffering from anxiety and depression. While not all college campuses will have a dedicated mental health professional in its LGBTQIA+ support center or comparable office, they can direct students to appropriate health and counseling services on campus or nearby.
A study by The National LGBTQ Task Force found that almost 20% of students who identify as LGBTQIA+ have feared for their safety on campus due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is essential for LGBTQIA+ students to choose a college with policies, procedures, and special training programs in place when it comes to the safety of all faculty, staff, and students.
Colleges and universities can improve students’ educational experiences and overall health by making students feel safer on campus. As noted by Campus Pride, a recent study conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that 57% of harassment issues go unreported. Of that sample set, 27% of the LGBTQIA+ victims stated that they did not report their incidents of harassment because they believed the faculty, staff, and administrators would do nothing to help them.
Solution: Stronger Safety Policies
Colleges and universities can take action to support the LGBTQIA+ community with stronger safety policies and dedicated safety services. A dedicated LGBTQIA+ liaison officer increases the likelihood that students will report harassment and violence. Additionally, colleges can provide highly visible safety officers at LGBTQIA+ events and actively strive to employ officers who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Finding an LGBTQIA+ Friendly Provider: Tips & Resources
Finding an LGBTQIA+ friendly healthcare provider can be a difficult task, especially for individuals who live in remote or rural areas. Thankfully, with the help of the internet and health insurance-based search engines, people in the LGBTQIA+ community today can more easily locate the health services they need. Aside from searching the internet, people in need of care can also ask friends and others in their community, consult local LGBTQIA+ friendly care centers, and call known LGBTQIA+ clinics. While it may take some more old-fashioned searching and asking around than some of us are used to, locating a friendly healthcare provider is an achievable goal.
How to Find LGBTQIA+ Friendly Providers
Word of mouth
You can ask a trusted friend, mentor, or teacher for recommendations. Especially people with whom you have a healthy relationship who understand your health needs. It is quite possible that they may have a connection to someone with comparable medical needs and can locate additional information for you.
Local LGBTQIA+ centers
Try to locate LGBTQIA+ centers near you. If you are having trouble, consider searching for resources at the state level who may have more information about centers and healthcare providers in your area. The Oasis Center in Nashville, TN offers a wide variety of services from crisis intervention to youth leadership and community engagement. These types of organizations employ professionals with access to resources and contact information for LGBTQIA+ friendly providers.
National organizations such as Planned Parenthood or regional clinics such as Cedar River in Seattle, WA, can function as a useful resource when you are searching for a healthcare provider. Regionally based organizations may have more specialized knowledge of what is available to you in your area.
We have an increasing amount of reliable online resources for these types of searches today. Some of these search engines provide helpful resources categorized by location or particular health services. OutCare is one example of a site that provides a list of LGBTQIA+ healthcare providers by state.
Before Your Appointment
- Visit the provider’s website
When searching for an LGBTQIA+ friendly provider, closely examine each provider’s website. Pay special attention to the type of language used and if they offer a list of services that include those that support LGBTQIA+ patients.
- Read the reviews
Just as you would review a tangible product or service before spending your hard-earned dollars, read reviews of healthcare facilities and providers written by previous patients. Bear in mind that it may be difficult to know if these reviews come from credible sources.
- Trust your instinct
As always, one of the best ways to determine safe or supportive environments from those that are not is to trust your instincts. If you have the opportunity to compare providers, choose the one that feels right to you.
- Call the front desk
Before your appointment, consider calling the front desk at the office. The person who answers the phone serves as a representative of the organization. Pay attention to the language they use, pronoun usage, and any assumptions made about your sexuality or gender. In the section below, we provide potential questions that you may want to ask a prospective healthcare provider.
Questions to Ask
- Does the clinic have a nondiscrimination policy?
- Does the doctor have experience working with LGTQIA+ patients?
- Are there gender-neutral restrooms?
- Are there any LGBTQIA+ members on staff?
Talking to Your Doctor
Many of us find it easy to feel uncomfortable in doctor’s offices. This is especially the case for LGBTQIA+ patients for whom there is a documented history of mistreatment and discrimination. Although we may feel vulnerable and intimidated, our doctor’s office needs to be a safe space for us to explain ourselves or ask any questions in order to receive the best care possible.
It is possible that you may not gain an accurate picture of a facility’s or healthcare provider’s support of the LGBTQIA+ community without experiencing it in-person and talking to doctors directly. Here are some signs you have likely found a committed and supportive professional:
- They ask what your pronouns are.
- They ask assumption-free questions like, “Are you in a relationship?” rather than, “Do you have a husband/wife?”
- They don’t make assumption once you express your identity such as thinking you are there for an HIV test just because you are LGBTQIA+.
- They admit when they don’t know the answer. It is important to have a doctor who is willing to learn more about the health concerns of LGBTQIA+ patients and do more research and talk to colleagues rather than acting like they know it all.
There are a wide variety of trustworthy and well-informed resources on the internet. Here are a few websites of professional organizations and nonprofit institutions whose sole mission is to support LGBTQIA+ people.
Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA)
This national organization ensures that LGBTQ and SGM healthcare professionals receive equal treatment and opportunities in their learning and work environments. The program prides itself on utilizing scientific expertise of its diverse membership to promote the latest research, advocate for marginalized populations, and promote holistic education.
National LGBT Health Education Center
Located in Boston, Massachusetts, the National LGBT Health Education Center is a program offered by The Fenway Institute, one of the world’s largest health centers of its kind. The center provides consultation, educational programs, and resources for healthcare organizations. The primary goal of the center is to continuously improve healthcare services for LGBTQ people.
CenterLink LGBT Community Center Member Directory
Founded in 1994, CenterLink is a member-driven coalition that supports the creation and further development of sustainable LGBT community centers. The organization serves more than 200 community centers across the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. CenterLink also carries out comparable work in centers in Canada, Australia, and China.
World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)
WPATH is a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting and advancing evidence-based healthcare research for transgender people. The interdisciplinary organization strives to improve medical professionals’ understanding and treatment of gender dysphoria. They also educate and provide resources for professionals in related fields including mental health counseling, psychotherapy, anthropology, sociology, sexology, psychology, and more.
National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
The NGLCC serves as a voice in the business community for LGBTQIA+ people. It is the largest advocacy organization that works to increase economic opportunities for the community. It is also the only certifying body for LGBTQIA+ owned businesses. NGLCC features a global network that helps members advance the economic empowerment and economic growth of LGBTQIA+ people around the world.
Planned Parenthood is one of the leading providers of affordable health care and is the largest provider of sex education in the U.S. The organization offers walk-in medical services, education, resources, support groups, service referrals, hormone therapy for transgender patients, and more. Planned Parenthood is working on improving its online services, including a smartphone app that offers faster and easier ways for patients to get prescriptions for UTI treatments and birth control.
Finding an LGBTQIA+ Friendly School
It is important that you feel affirmed and safe while attending your college or university, and finding an LGBTQIA+ friendly school can greatly improve your experience and the quality of your education. To make your search for these schools a little easier, look for institutions with supportive LGBTQIA+ programs, policies, and practices. The list below offers some potential markers of a supportive and inclusive educational community. Also, the CampusPride.org offers an annual ranked list of LGBTQIA+ friendly schools.
What to Look For
- Active LGBTQIA+/ally organizations
Active student organizations and LGBTQIA+ ally groups offer educational and social programs as well as leadership development and networking resources. These groups also serve as excellent resources to connect with people who understand bias and discrimination reporting and advocate for policy changes in the school.
- Inclusive housing policies
One of the ways that many colleges and universities today are moving beyond traditional binary classifications and groupings is gender-inclusive housing policies. All members of the campus community choose what they consider to be a safe housing option on campus. These policies do not require roommates to be of the same sex.
- Out faculty member
Out faculty members of the LGBTQIA+ community help members of the study body feel a sense of support and solidarity. As an education-focused community, colleges and universities also need to take care of their faculty and staff. Out members of the faculty also improve the quality of life for other employees who identify as LGBTQIA+.
- The social scene
When researching prospective colleges and universities, look through popular publications in the area that cover social events and nightlife spots. A community with LGBTQIA+ support will likely have publicly listed events, many of which follow weekly schedules.
Ways to Learn More
There are several national student-run organizations that help unite LGBTQIA+ scholars and foster a sense of community. Some of these organizations focus on college and university degree seekers while others offer online resources and advocacy for learners in middle and high school.
Campus Pride is a national nonprofit organization that strives to create safer college environments for LGBTQIA+ across the U.S. The organization specializes in providing access to resources, programs, and services for the community and ally students. Campus Pride offers summer leadership camps for LGBTQIA+ students and allies. The website also serves as a resource for updates on policies, programs, and practices on college campuses that affect LGBTQIA+ learners.
GSA is a student-run organization that provides resources and support for racial, gender, and educational justice. The network focuses on student wellness, academic performance, and health and strives to protect students of all sexual orientations and gender identities from harassment in educational settings. GSA offers leadership training summits, three-day summer activists camps, and day-long conferences to help build safer school communities and educate the next generation of LGBTQIA+ leaders.
Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
Focusing on LGBTQIA+ issues among students in grades K-12, GLSEN is one of the leading national education organizations dedicated to ensuring safe and affirming schools. The organization conducts extensive research to generate evidence-based reports and relevant statistics. They also partner with other national education organizations to pool resources and affect positive change in school systems across the U.S.
Point supports and empowers promising LGBTQIA+ students with scholarship funding, leadership development, mentorship services, community service training, and other merit-based awards. The organization actively fights violence, isolation, and harassment faced by students today and ensures that learners have a fair opportunity and desire to pursue higher education. Each scholar associated with the foundation works with a dedicated mentor and participates in networking and social events throughout the academic year.
Understanding Your Rights
In the face of discrimination, harassment, and violence, it can be difficult for LGBTQIA+ students to locate the necessary resources for help. It is important that students understand their rights sooner than later. The following section offers five laws that protect students who identify as LGBTQIA+ from unfair treatment inside and outside educational settings.
Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972
This federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on sex in any educational program or federally funded activity. This amendment applies to most schools, including public and private institutions, colleges and universities, and grades K-12. The amendment requires that schools proactively prevent and respond to all claims of sexual harassment, violence, and forms of gender-based discrimination.
The Matthew Shepard Act
This hate crimes prevention act was signed into law in 2009. It defines crimes motivated by a victim’s gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation to be classified as hate crimes. The Human Right Campaign offers a comprehensive guide to state-level advocacy and enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
Also known as FERPA, this 1974 federal legislation protects the privacy of students’ personally identifiable information and education records. This level of protection applies in all educational institutions that receive federal funding. The privacy act gives certain rights to parents regarding access to their child’s education records until turn 18 years old.
The First Amendment
The first amendment is part of the Bill of Rights that was added to the Constitution in 1791. The amendment includes protections for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and the right to petition the government. The amendment ultimately protects our rights related to individual expression. Some individuals consider the First Amendment to be one of the first legal protections that serves the LGBTQIA+ community.
State and local laws
Organizations such as Lambda Legal and the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) provide various resources and services for LGBTQIA+ students. Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest legal organization defending the LGBTQIA+ community and everyone living with HIV. They are a nonprofit organization and do not charge their clients for legal representation or advocacy. MAP is a nonprofit think-tank that engages in rigorous research, collaborates with advocates and professional organizations, and communicates with policymakers and the media to fight for equal opportunities for all people.
LGBTQIA+ Students & Online Learning
According to a recent study by the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, three out of four LGBTQIA+ college students reported experiences of sexual harassment during the academic school year. Furthermore, 20% of these college students feared for their physical safety because of their gender identity or perceived sexual orientation. The fear of further harassment and discrimination on college campuses may deter degree seekers from enrolling in on-campus programs. Online degree programs can alleviate some of these fears.
An online education is as valuable as an on-campus degree program. Many students today are taking advantage of the various educational opportunities and flexibility that come with online learning. With the growing number of online resources for LGBTQIA+ college students, including remote mental health counseling and e-tutoring, distance learners today don’t feel that they are missing out on these types of services by being away from campus. Additionally, remote students from all walks of life enjoy the scheduling flexibility and financial savings that typically come with earning an online degree — whether they want to major in business, engineering, healthcare (for example, an online public health degree, online nurse practitioner program, or online healthcare administration degree), or something else entirely.
LGBTQIA+ Students & Healthcare Education: Your Questions Answered
Are there scholarships for LGBTQIA+ students?
Yes. There are a wide variety of scholarships available to students in this community. Regional and national scholarship funds and nonprofit organizations offer a substantial amount of funding each academic year. For more information, interested students can consult the LGBTQ Student Scholarship Database through the Human Rights Campaign.
What should LGBTQIA+ students keep in mind when applying to colleges?
Applying for admission to colleges can be overwhelming for any student. LGBTQIA+ applicants can encounter additional hurdles throughout the application process and admissions cycle. The Human Rights Campaign offers a guide for navigating this process.
What is the Campus Pride Index?
Campus Pride conducts an annual study and generates the “Best of the Best” list — a collection of ranked LGBTQIA+ friendly colleges and universities. The organization ranks institutions based on the availability of policies, programs, and practices that support the students, faculty, and staff in the LGBTQIA+ community. Campus Pride is dedicated to providing reliable educational resources for students and their families and locating the safest campuses for learners from all walks of life