Looking for a LGBTQ friendly college? I understand and encourage this, because some colleges are unquestionably more LGBTQ+ friendly than others.
College is a time to discover who you are without feeling restrained by other’s opinions. When you’re coming of age as part of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s critical to live and learn within an atmosphere that will support who you are at your core.
Choosing the wrong college could also affect your mental health, your safety and your future.
Top 11 LGBTQ Friendly Colleges
Below are eleven of the best LGBT friendly colleges in the USA.
1. Smith College (I did an Undergraduate Degree here!)
While Smith is a women’s college according to its mission and legal status, it’s also incredibly genderqueer and LGBTQ+ friendly. Best of all, I can tell you this from first hand experience. For my undergraduate studies, I matriculated at Dartmouth College, but after doing a 7-college exchange semester at Smith College, I eventually transferred in and graduated from Smith.
When you enter Northampton, MA, the town in which Smith College is located, you’ll see the streets filled with lesbians, nonbinary folks, transguys, and everything else along the beautiful LGBTQ+ spectrum.
It’s a place where you’re able to explore who you are in a respectful and open environment. Smith also has students and faculty who are nonbinary, trans, and gender-nonconforming, and the town of Northhampton, MA, is one of the queerest towns in the USA.
Today, there are tons of nonbinary and transguys graduating from Smith College, alongside their cis female peers. If you’re FTM and looking for a trans-friendly college, I couldn’t recommend anywhere else where you would be safer, happier, and better educated.
Some of the resources available to gender nonconforming (GNC) students include:
- More than 200 all-gender restrooms
- An all-gender locker room in the athletic facilities, with private showering and changing areas
- Transcending Gender, a student organization focused on education and support
- Transgender Support Group run by Counseling Services
- The Resource Center for Sexuality and Gender
- The Office for Equity and Inclusion and its Trans/Nonbinary Working Group
Regardless of where you are along the gender or sexuality spectrum, I highly encourage you to do a college visit to Smith to see this incredible LGBTQ+ collegiate haven for yourself.
2. Macalester College (In My Hometown)
At Macalester College, a college headquartered in my hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota, students have access to wide range of LGBTQ+ support and resources.
First, Macalester runs a Gender & Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC) that is run by the Department of Multicultural Life. Its mission to “integrate and affirm the peoples, discourses, thoughts, and experiences of marginalized people into the fabric of the Macalester community.”
This intersectional approach to advocacy unites the entire campus, as well as supports projects such as the:
- Lavender Reception: Celebrates queer and trans communities at Mac and serves as an opportunity for LGBTQIA+ students to learn about resources and support networks on and off campus.
- GSRC Tea Time: A weekly opportunity hosted every Friday for LGBTQ+ students.
- LGBTQIA+ Pride Month: An annual celebration of LGBTQIA+ community in April.
- Lavender Graduation: An annual ceremony for LGBTQIA+ identified graduates to be recognized and celebrated.
Macalester also maintains an “Out and Proud list” of LGBTQ faculty and staff, so that students can see themselves reflected within the college’s leadership.
Then there’s the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC) Mentor Program, in which Macalester students who identify as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community can connected with a trained and supportive mentor to discuss issues relevant to their sexual or gender identity.
Transgender students will also find an extremely supportive environment at Macalester College.
The school has deliberate non-discrimination policies that extend from academics to hiring to athletics. The college offers all-gender locker rooms and bathrooms, as well as intentional housing options for transgender and non-binary students. The Health and Wellness Center provides guidance for students hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Best of all, anywhere one’s legal name is not required by a business need, law, or regulation, Macalester is happy to use a student’s “preferred or recognized” name.
3. Oberlin College
Oberlin College is known for being a justice-oriented liberal arts college and leads in affirming LGBT students and faculty. This LGBT friendly college provides support through groups and acceptance, along with celebrations centered around pride. Oberlin is focused on ensuring all students thrive academically, mentally, and socially.
One of the greatest things about Oberlin is how well supported the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist studies are.
4. Pomona College
Pomona College has a Queer Resource Center with enough resources and programming to serve all of the Claremont Colleges. Their rainbow ski lodge is an LGBT hang out decorated with pride.
They host an annual Queer Faculty Symposium Series that showcases the work of LGBT and ally faculty across the seven Claremont Colleges.
There are “Drop-in Hours” a few times every week when students can stop by for informal counseling regarding issues with sexual orientation or gender identity, coming out, and guidance on LGBTQ-related research.
5. University of California Berkeley
The University of California offers numerous LGBT-specific resources. Their website resources page focuses on LGBTQ+ issues, needs, and communities. Students have access to Cal Alumni Pride, UC Berkeley LGBT history, internships, and volunteering opportunities.
Some of UC Berekely’s events include Lavender Graduation, LGBTQ+ Career Conference, and more.
6. University of Maryland
The University of Maryland recently began providing gender-neutral housing. Their Rainbow Terrapin Network of the LGBT Equity Center provides campus-wide training of LGBT advocacy, allyship, and inclusion fundamentals. The center also offers a separate Transgender Advocacy Training.
Their LGBT Equity Library is comprised of more than 3,000 volumes, books, videos, and magazines. All of which are free for students to borrow.
7. Dartmouth College (I attended here too!)
As mentioned in the section about Smith College, I attended Dartmouth College for part of my undergraduate years.
Over 30 years ago, Dartmouth formed the Women’s Resource Center, which later became the Center for Women and Gender and eventually the Center for Gender and Student Engagement (CGSE). The CGSE offers programs to help students with gender identity exploration and supports designated “safe spaces” for members of the LGBTQ community.
Another little known fact is that Dartmouth has a budget to support the travel of LGBTQ students to educational events, such as LGBTQ relevant conferences. (I enjoyed this perk during my years there!)
Furthermore, Dartmouth features an Office of Pluralism and Leadership that is dedicated to supporting the personal, academic, and social success of LGBTQ+ students.
Other LGBTQ+ friendly resources offered by the college include:
- An LGBTQIA+Alum Association
- The Men’s Project, which offers resources to help male-identified individuals identify and explore masculinity issues
Finally, the Women’s Rugby Team at Dartmouth is one of the best in the USA, and of course, is led by a LGBTQ+ friendly coach, Kate Dowty, who is a long-time friend and peer of mine. I played on this team during my years at Dartmouth and it was a central part of my LGBTQ+ experience on campus.
8. Washington University
Washington University in St. Louis provides students with leadership and advocacy opportunities. Their Holobaugh Honors program acknowledges students who are displaying leadership in advocacy for the LGBT community. Students can also connect through business school and law.
One of the more exciting things this school offers is Destination Q. It’s a free, two-day retreat for LGBT undergraduates where you can work on identity expression and leadership skills.
9. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania features one of the oldest LGBT centers in the USA. For the past 35 years, it’s been a leader in advocacy.
Some of the other features include gender-neutral bathrooms and housing.
Another benefit of this school is that Penn Medicine offers a Transgender Patient Advocate program, LGBTQ treatment teams, and more.
10. University of California – Los Angeles
The University of California offers seven LGBT-specific scholarships to students. UCLA hosts a think tank solely dedicated to research on gender identity policy and sexual orientation. Some of the other features include weekly events, counseling services, transgender legal and health resources.
This school’s research efforts have assisted in legal progress for LGBT parenting and adoption, transgender rights, and more.
11. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Although the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is widely known for its STEM research and technology, this school leads in its advocacy and support for LGBTQ+ students and staff.
First, students here have access to mental health services, gender-inclusive housing, name change services, and other benefits that place it among the top LGBTQ friendly colleges.
Second, it offers a safe space for its LGBTQ students to congregate, known as the MIT Rainbow Lounge.
Finally, its Department of Athletics hosts the Z Center. This inclusive fitness center includes single-occupancy locker rooms and bathrooms, which allows nonbinary, transgender, and gender non-conforming (GNC) students to workout in an environment that is respectful of their identity.
The Importance of LGBTQ Friendly Colleges
The importance of LGBTQ friendly colleges is that the staff will be open-minded and accepting, as will the other students. They’re places where you can expect gender-inclusive language to be practiced and supported. Gender-neutral bathrooms will also be peppered around the campus.
Being part of an accepting and supportive community can make all the difference in your life.
According to the Trevor Project, 40% of transgender adults reported attempting suicide and 92% of these people reported attempting suicide before turning 25. Results from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 33% of U.S. high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual report having been bullied on school property in the past year, a rate that is twice as high as their heterosexual peers (only 17.1%).
Now that you’re familiar with the top eleven colleges that are LGBTQ friendly, it’s time for you to decide which one feels best for your journey.
Your time spent researching will pay off once you’re part of an incredible college community that supports you just as you are.