The Brown Daily Herald, Brown University’s independent student newspaper, recently discovered that nearly 38% of its student body identifies somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, which is over five times the national rate. Brown’s LGBTQ+ student cohort has more than doubled since fall 2010.
Similarly, the Association of American Universities (AAU) found in 2020 that nearly a fifth of today’s undergraduates and graduates identify outside of the heterosexual spectrum.
As prominent of a student body LGBTQ+ students are becoming, they do so with a cost. Lesbian, gay and bisexual Gen Z adults aged 18 to 25 are more prone to anxiety, sadness, stress and loneliness, all the while feeling less happiness compared to their straight/heterosexual peers, according to a Gallup poll last month.
While the poll does not attribute any specific reason to these higher negative emotions, the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics found that sexual orientation was the second-most motivating bias for hate crimes at postsecondary institutions, behind only race. Recent examples seem to confirm this data point clearly.
In February, members of Montana State University’s unofficial club Queer Straight Alliance received death threats if they attended an off-campus dance party. That same month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requested from its colleges and universities the medical records of students who sought or received gender dysphoria treatment, sparking a statewide student walkout.
Similarly, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) turned over transgender patient medical records to the Tennessee Attorney General’s office last month. While the AG asserted the purpose of the request was to investigate billing fraud, it hasn’t stopped community members from feeling “terrified.”
Moreover, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem urged the state’s higher education board of governors in May to ban drag shows on college campuses and remove references to preferred pronouns, according to NBC News.
Attacks and threats on LGBTQ+ members extend outside of higher education. As of March, the Movement Advancement Project has discovered more than 650 anti-LGBTQ bills across 46 states.
Despite these perceived transgressions, students and other allies have continued fighting for their representation.
Defense amid pushback
Boston College is set to open its doors to the first institutionally recognized LGBTQ+ student resource center in the 2023-24 academic year after a student task force reported nearly 80% of queer students felt unwelcome. Initiatives to establish a center have been bubbling under the radar since at least 2005, according to student newspaper records—a two-decade uphill battle.
Similarly, The College Board last month vowed in a statement it would not modify their courses or “accommodate restrictions on teaching essential, college-level topics,” despite the Florida Department of Education’s decision to prevent middle and high school teachers from teaching sexual orientation or gender identity.
“To AP teachers everywhere, please know we will not modify any of the 40 AP courses—from art to history to science—in response to regulations that would censor college-level standards for credit, placement, and career readiness,” wrote The College Board.