The 25 Best Colleges And Universities For LGBT Students
Apparently, Oregon and California are the places to be.
Campus Pride is a nationally recognized organization dedicated to making campuses more LGBT-friendly. The organization's annual Campus Pride Index is based on a set of 50 questions that correspond to eight different LGBT-friendly factors.
The Princeton Review also ranks the best (and worst) campuses for LGBT students each year, but its results are based on a survey of 126,000 random students at 378 top colleges. Colleges come to the Campus Pride Index and work with the organization to form a group of faculty and students, LGBT people included, to rate their school by the index's factors.
Below, in no particular order, are the top schools from the Campus Pride Index's most recent list and some of the unique student groups and organizations they offer. BuzzFeed also reached out to students at the various campuses for their thoughts.
Southern Oregon University (Ashland, Ore.)
Fierce Feature: SOU's LGBT center lists where every gender-inclusive bathroom is located on campus. The center also hosts several annual events, including a Queer Carnival, an Erotic Poetry Lit Slam, and a Trans Training Workshop.
As a queer and trans student myself, I feel that my identities are welcomed and embraced at SOU; I love the many gender-neutral restrooms on campus, the queer and trans support groups, the wonderful queer community from which I can garner support, and the overall degree to which I feel that I can bring up an issue related to my identity if it arises. —Toby Stein, Southern Oregon University student
University of Southern California (Los Angeles)
Fierce Feature: USC's LGBT center has several groups, including Greek Chat. Greek Chat (est. 2010) is a confidential support group for out, closeted, and questioning students in Fraternities and Sororities. It is facilitated by current and openly gay/lesbian/bisexual members of the Greek community. It is an opportunity to discuss any challenges freely and in a safe environment and rewards being LGBT and Greek.
I've never felt uncomfortable because of my sexuality during my four years at USC. Yes, there are obviously some circles that tend to be more homophobic, but that exists anywhere, and I don't think it is reflective of the university as a whole. There are a ton of LGBT organizations and programs on campus for whoever wants to participate, and I think that overall the university is very embracing of it's gay community. The fact that I hardly ever even think about my sexuality as something worth noting is a testament to how ordinary and accepted it is to be gay at USC. —Alberto, University of Southern California student
Ithaca College (Ithaca, N.Y.)
Fierce Feature: As part of its LGBT Awareness Month in March, Ithaca's LGBT center has a National LGBT Health Awareness Week to discuss LGBT health, and it invites several speakers, such as Joy Ladin, the first openly transgender professor at an Orthodox Jewish institution, who spoke last year about her experience being transgender and Jewish.
Throughout my three and a half years at Ithaca College, I have never once felt threatened or targeted because of my sexuality inside or outside of a classroom setting. Of course, the institution cannot account for individual acts of physical, emotional, or intellectual violence born out of ignorance (which are thankfully rare). However, the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Education, Outreach, and Services provides various legal and mental health-related resources to help students cope with discrimination from others, as well as to cope with personal identity development. What's more, we have four extremely active and passionate student groups that put on events, discussions, and educational panels all year round. The LGBTQ and Allied community at Ithaca College has been one of the most important aspects of my college career, and I am who I am today because of the love and support I've found from staff (especially LGBT Center Director Luca Maurer!), faculty, and my fellow students on campus. —Isabel Galupo, Ithaca College student
University of Illinois at Chicago
Fierce Feature: UIC's One More Chance Clinic is a community partner organization that hosts weekly discussion groups led by Stephvon "Bo" Cook, MMHC, CADC. The group helps men who have been affected by emotional disturbances, substance abuse, HIV, incarceration and sexuality issues to understand their potential through confidential holistic therapeutic mental and emotional support.
As a member of the LGBTQ community at UIC, I am grateful for being in a campus where I can freely be myself without any fears of being judged for my sexuality. Due to the resources the Gender and Sexuality Center and the various programs affiliated with it have offered me, both academic and social, I have been able to navigate my way around campus comfortably — [thanks to their] referring me to tutoring services, going on great outings to meet important figures of the LGBTQ community, and anything in between. —David A. Castillo, University of Illinois at Chicago student
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Fierce Feature: UMass Amherst's LGBT center developed bulletin boards for RAs to use in their residence halls, including bulletin boards like the "How to Be an Ally," "Same Sex Families," and "LGBT Trivia" boards.
UMass Amherst has a well-established LGBTQIA resource center called the Stonewall Center and an active student-run organization called Pride Alliance that both work to serve the student body. We have a residential community, the Spectrum Floor, that supports the general queer community, and a gender-free housing area. We cover transitioning expenses for students, change the names and gender on campus records of students who request it, allow trans students to participate on campus sports teams, and have gender-inclusive bathrooms around campus. The center hosts gender- and sexual orientation–inclusive dances and conducts many LGBT ally trainings workshops. These are some of the many reasons we are an LGBTQIA-friendly campus. —Andres, University of Massachusetts Amherst student
University of Washington (Seattle)
Fierce Feature: UW's LGBT center has two new support groups this year: the Lavender Circle (where there are discussions of gender identity, gender expression, sexual identity development, and more), and the Trans & Queer Support group, facilitated by two masters of social work students interning at the Q Center.
The Q Center is where I really first began to make connections between my experiences "coming out" and multiple interlocking systems of social oppression that have also affected me such as racism and classism. I had never before been in a space where my multiple identities were drawn out and made part of what it meant to have a "space" with other people. The people I met at the Q Center were all committed to social justice principles, and my time there shaped my own ideals of what a strong, compassionate community should try to look like. —University of Washington student
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities (Minneapolis)
Fierce Feature: U of M's LGBT center has an LGBT International Student Drop-In Center that invites students to stop by and talk with fellow international LGBT students.
I think that U of M is very LGBT inclusive. I recently met a student who came to our office looking for advice. They said they were questioning their sexuality, and I was happy I could refer them to several different resources here on our campus. I think just the fact that they felt comfortable enough to reach out to us and ask questions like that says a lot about our campus climate. —Mason Nunemaker, University of Minnesota Twin Cities student
University of Maryland, College Park
Fierce Feature: The University of Maryland has a program called "The One Project," which is an award-winning firsthand experience for LGBT and allied students. It ensures that LGBTQA-identifying first-year students make a successful transition to college.
As a transgender person, a person of color, and as a graduate student here, I experience the University of Maryland, College Park, as an LGBT-friendly campus. I can fully express my LGBT identity in the classroom, in my research, at work, and with health and wellness professionals on campus. The University of Maryland constantly surprises me with just how LGBT-friendly its campus continues to be in new and expanding ways. —A. Anthony, University of Maryland student
Washington State University (Pullman, Wash.)
Fierce Feature: A few years ago, Referendum 74 was up for debate, and WSU students made a video to support marriage equality. Referendum 74 passed at the statewide level and had a majority in Whitman County (where WSU is located), the only county east of the Cascades that had a majority in favor of marriage equality.
What does it mean to be LGBT-friendly? Is it having a resource center? Having gender-neutral bathrooms and housing? Is it having a medical insurance and care that is inclusive of LGBT needs? Is it a low to nonexistent rate of violence against LGBT students/faculty/staff? Is it that LGBT students report feeling like an important and integral part of the campus culture? I think we have some of these qualities I mentioned, but not all. —Tegan, Washington State University student
Carleton College (Northfield, Minn.)
Fierce Feature: Carleton stages Carleton Monologues, a reading of personal pieces written by Carleton community members and inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues.
"Carleton is dedicated to having a healthy and supportive community," says GSC director Kaaren Williamsen. "We welcome everyone, including people of diverse gender and sexuality identities. We want everybody on campus to treat each other well."
Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio)
Fierce Feature: In addition to having a gorgeous LGBT center, Case Western provides transgender-related health care to all of its students as part of their student health care plan. The center also offers an LGBT-related academic opportunity: a short-term, study-abroad course in Amsterdam this spring break called "Gender & Sexuality Justice: LGBT Life in the Netherlands," which is being offered through the School of Social Work.
Freshman year I was kind of nervous when I first arrived on campus. I knew I wanted to be out, but that still didn't make it any easier. I was even nervous to take some of the LGBT Center's pamphlets during orientation, or to walk into the center, for fear of someone seeing me. The center had a men's conversation group and a coming-out group that I began attending, and those helped me tremendously! I have never felt more comfortable being who I am anywhere else in my entire life. —Mike Siberski, Case Western Reserve University studentI'm a very out lesbian with short hair AND I'm an executive member of a large sorority. At other schools, this would just not be possible. I take for granted how limitless my opportunities are here at CWRU. We have an annual "LGBT? Fine by me" T-shirt giveaway. We always run out of 300-plus shirts within the first 20 minutes. Our allies are fantastic. —Rya Lally, Case Western Reserve University student
Connecticut College (New London, Conn.)
Fierce Feature: The school's LGBT center has several faculty and staff workshops throughout the year. Their most recent workshops include "The Transgender Friendly Classroom," "How to Be an Ally to Trans* Students," and "Best Policies for an LGBTQ Friendly Campus."
Macalester College (Saint Paul, Minn.)
Fierce Feature: All single-stall restrooms on campus were converted to all-gender restrooms.
One of the things that made me really realize how supportive Mac was about the LGBTQ community was on my first day here when we gathered with our hall to have our first hall meeting and talk about things. One of the questions they asked of everyone was preferred gender pronoun. —Macalester College student
For me, as an administrator, I think that what celebrates the LGBTQ community are the number of administrators and faculty who are out on campus. Sometimes it jokingly seems that like everyone is queer on campus, and for me, I think that's really important for students because students get to see different types of queer people and they just get to see how normal it really is and abnormal it really is too. —Christopher Macdonald-Dennis, Dean of Multicultural Life at Macalester College
Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio)
Fierce Feature: Oberlin's LGBT center has an annual speaker series called My Name Is My Own: Queering the Intersections of Race, Gender, Class, and Sexuality, which provides institutional support to Oberlin communities that identify as queer and of color in the broadest senses of those words. It features public lectures, film screenings, artistic and activist performances, workshops, and small discussion groups.
I notice and appreciate the effort that the LGBT-CRC makes to be inclusive of all gender and sexual identities — not just white, gay cis-men. The student-led LGBT-CRC fosters the queer community on campus by offering focused support and resources. This is a great space for all identities, LGBTQ+ and otherwise. —Molly Gerrity, Stanford University student
Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.)
Fierce Feature: A new program this year is Active Allyship: An Educational Workshop Series, an educational series focused on how to develop tools to be a better ally. Other annual programs the school offers include Queering the Color Line Family Dinners, Bisexual Day Celebration, Hey Mom, I'm Gay!: Coming Out to Family & Friends, and the LGBT International Students Dinner.
The Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio)
Fierce Feature: OSU has a meeting for freshman and transfer students who are coming out, called the LGBTQ First Year Cohort, which meets every Monday night. This program exists to build community and engage lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and queer students in social, support, and educational experiences. Student leaders help to facilitate each session, plan social outings, coordinate small group discussions, and serve as mentors to group participants.
University of California, Riverside (Riverside, Calif.)
Fierce Feature: Since 1998, UC Riverside has hosted Tuesday Talks, a unique discussion every Tuesday night that covers various topics — including nights called Fluidity, GRRL Talk, Guy Talk, Let's Talk About Sex!, and QPOC, for queer people of color.
At UCR, our LGBT Resource Center makes an immense effort to help support and build spaces that make the campus safer and more comfortable for students who identify along the LGBTQIA spectrum. No campus is 100% perfect, but the programs that the center has in place, the organizations that it supports, and the spaces that it maintains make our campus as close to perfect as possible. —Gen Newman, Gamma Rho Lambda, Mu Chapter President, and University of California Riverside student
University of California, Santa Cruz
Fierce Feature: UC Santa Cruz provides a list of religious organizations that accept all identities.
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Fierce Feature: UM's My Voice Program provides panels that feature trained LGBTQA and similarly identified speakers to share their personal stories with audiences. The panels, the oldest and most popular of its educational programs, provide information about LGBTQ issues with a personal touch.
My experience at the University of Michigan has definitely reflected a pervading LGBT-friendly environment. While there are indeed a constantly growing number of services and resources for LGBT*QA members of our community, it goes much deeper than that. It's expected for people to respect each other's beliefs and lifestyles on this campus, however they choose to express them. —Madeline, University of Michigan nursing student
University of Minnesota — Duluth
Fierce Feature: University of Minnesota has an LGBT AA support group that meets every Friday; a student can request to live with someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or an ally; and the center will get a student acquainted with the center before arriving.
University of Oregon (Eugene, Ore.)
Fierce Feature: University of Oregon's Standing Committee for LGBT Concerns was officially organized in 1990 as the President's Committee on Lesbian and Gay Issues. As part of the 1991 Campus Climate Assessment, several recommendations were made to the UO administration to improve the campus climate for lesbian and gay people. Since that time, the committee has grown in both membership and scope and continues to serve the campus community as the school creates a more welcoming and supportive experience for LGBTQ people at the University of Oregon.
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)
Fierce Feature: Every Wednesday, PennAces meets — a student organization that promotes awareness, education, and safety for the asexual community in Philadelphia. Its goals are to provide a safe space for the asexual community, promote asexual inclusivity in LGBT spaces, and educate mainstream America about the complexities of not simply whom someone is attracted to, but to what degree sexual attraction plays in our lives.
I feel that the Penn campus is particularly LGBTQ-friendly for two reasons: the diversity of identities represented in our LGBTQ community and the strong presence our community and its allies have on campus. As demonstrated by the wide array of LGBTQ student organizations in our community (which range from queer pre-professional organizations to groups dedicated to the exploration of trans and non-binary gender identities), we truly value the creation of spaces for individuals of all queer and trans identities to feel welcomed and to celebrate who they are. The factor that truly facilitates a campus-wide atmosphere of queer acceptance, however, is the effort made by our community (and supported by the administration) to share the experiences of the many facets of our community with Penn as a whole. Whether it is through passive exposure by inviting friends and colleagues into the LGBT Center or active promotion in the form of QPenn, our annual pride week, members of the Penn community are frequently reminded of the vibrant LGBTQ community present here. —Frank Wolf, University of Pennsylvania student
Rutgers University (New Brunswick, N.J.)
Fierce Feature: For three months in the spring, on the last Friday of the month, Rutgers holds a Safe (R) Space Training three-hour training session that provides a foundation of knowledge necessary to be a more effective ally and advocate for LGBTQ students and those questioning their sexuality.
Portland State University (Portland, Ore.)
Fierce Feature: At the beginning of every semester, PSU's Transgender and Interpersonal Violence Resources coordinator will email professors to advise them of a student's chosen name and pronoun along with a way to contact the center with questions.