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LGBT Students Can Face Significant Challenges in College

Source: Indiana University

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- For students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, college can be a positive growing experience. Since college can provide a different environment than that of high school, college students should know the resources available to them to ensure a smooth adjustment to campus life and possible changes in their family life.

Mary L. Gray, associate professor at the Department of Communication and Culture in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington, wrote about young people's experiences growing up LGBT in rural areas in the United States. Her book "Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America," speaks to LGBT students who come from backgrounds where being straight is the accepted sexual orientation.

The biggest challenge that some LGBT students face is when they find themselves outgrowing their families and hometowns once they start to embrace their LGBT identity, Gray said.

Students, who may not have come out to family or friends back home, might be dating for the first time but won't necessarily have the familiar support systems back home. Families might even blame college for encouraging their kids to come or embrace these identities, she said.

"LGBT students, unlike their straight peers, may have to defend the value of college to their families and may not be able to talk about some of the biggest things going on in their lives," such as dating other LGBT-identifying people or learning about LGBT culture, Gray said. "Feeling unable to share what you're learning and experiencing at college can be a very isolating experience."

LGBT students who are financially dependent on their parents should also do their homework to make sure they have their parents' or guardians' support before coming out to them.

"They should talk with close friends, or other family members or family friends of their parents, to gauge how their parents will react if they're unsure about the coming-out process," she said. The Family Acceptance Project -- a research initiative that works to decrease major health issues for LGBT youth in the context of their families -- provides several resources for LGBT students and their families on its website.

Gray can be reached at 812-855-4379 and mlg@indiana.edu. For additional assistance, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 and traljame@iu.edu.

09/09/2013



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