Stepping onto a college campus is like stepping into a new world for the first time. That initial moment is overwhelmingly filled with excitement, anxiety and even awe. However, for students who identify as a part of the LGBTQIA+, or queer, community, this irreplaceable initial moment of college can be dimmed by fears of being ostracized from campus communities and organizations.
As a proud queer alumnus of color from the University of Nevada, Reno, I want you to know there’s a whole world waiting for you and all sorts of people ready to welcome you just the way you are.
The great author James Baldwin once said, “The place in which I’ll fit does not exist until I make it.”
On college campuses there are many organizations for LGBTQIA+ students, from queer student organizations to gay-straight alliances. Some colleges and universities even offer Greek letter organizations for members of the LGBQIA+ community. Organizations like these provide safe spaces for students in various chapters of their belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Many of these organizations are responsible for hosting events for Pride Month, National Coming Out Day, HIV Awareness month and Transgender Day of Visibility. These same organizations also organize social events for students to connect with each other. These organizations serve as a great starting point for queer students to connect with the campus community.
I would also note that many queer students, myself included, have found community in many student organizations that are not centered around queer identity, including international historically African American fraternities. There is a whole world out there for YOU and there are some amazing people in this world from every different background.
When giving advice to prospective students and families as a university admissions counselor, I encourage students to befriend other students who may see and view the world differently or who see through a different metaphorical lens than the ones they may use to view the world. There are many organizations and people that provide a welcoming environment for students from various backgrounds and sometimes they can be found in unlikely places.
For students who identify as LGBTQIA+, there can be an instinctual hesitation to introduce themselves to their peers. However, I believe that many college campuses around the country have strived to provide an open-minded environment for students from of all backgrounds to feel inclusive. It is in this that I believe that connections can be made and built upon.
Your time in college is a whirlwind of emotions and experiences. This important chapter of your life can serve as a framework for the next several years and the people that you meet during this time can be your pseudo-family, advocates and future business partners. These experiences should not be withheld from queer students.
To all queer students and their families, I write this one overarching message, “You and your student belong in this world.”
You are needed, exactly the way you are. There’s a world full of memories, experiences, and people that you deserve to have in your life and deserve to have you in their lives.