There are numerous types of communities that exist today to bring people with similar values and interests together. Many of these are extremely important, but that does not mean that they all get the love, support, and attention they need or deserve. Campus awareness is an important part of bringing attention to these communities.
Once a university shines a light on the community it is easier for them to grow their organizations and get funding. It also makes it easier to go into the surrounding city with the university’s help and resources to further educate, advocate, and connect with others about this community. One of these important communities is for those who identify as LGBTQIA+. Some colleges and universities, such as my own, have centers and support services, which can offer LGBTQIA+ students a feeling of “home” when they need it most.
But, unfortunately, not every campus has the resources to provide this level of support. How can students get involved and support their LGBTQ+ classmates?
- Get Involved in the Local Community: There are a lot of student organizations on campuses that collaborate with the LGBTQIA+ community. One of the best ways to show support is to join and get involved, even if you don’t necessarily identify as LGBTQIA+. Get to know people, see what they’re facing and where they have come from. We all have more in common than what divides us. Everyone know what it feels like to be left out of something and it’s a horrible feeling to live with.
For example, I speak at my own university events. During Pride Week we have group sit downs, speakers, group collaborations, HIV awareness, testing seminars, and so much more.
- Reach Out About Events: Campuses often host a lot of guest speakers and events throughout the term. Reach out to affiliated groups and offer to help and assist with these activities. It’s an easy way to get involved and feel useful. If they don’t need extra help, show up and bring your friends!
- Establish More LGBTQ+ Organizations: Not enough (or any) LGBTQ+ organizations on campus? Start one yourself! Be sure to find out what rules and regulations your school has in order to start an organization, have an understanding of your goal and mission, and find people who share the same values who can help bring it to life.
Being an Ally
Every student has a choice to become an ally on campus. Similar to getting involved, becoming an ally can start with joining a local community or participating in events. But being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community and many others, can also be done in other ways too.
- Identify Yourself as an Ally: This is actually pretty simple, in theory, but make it known that you support and respect the LGBTQIA+ community. Speak up when someone says something derogatory or as a joke, educate yourself on LGBTQIA+ history, recognize where your implicit bias are and work to correct them.
- Listen: Sometimes it’s not about what you do but whether you’re hearing someone. If you sense someone is going through a rough time or they need to talk, hear them out. You don’t have to have all the answers or fix the problem, but being there and making someone feel a little bit less isolated means a great deal.
- Demand Support & Resources: Some schools have spaces like the LGBTQIA+ center that I mentioned on my campus. These types of centers make it easy to identify allies and for people to find support and love.
But not every school has this. If your school doesn’t, do your part in trying to make it a reality. Write, talk, and petition to the chancellor, dean, student president, and fellow students about how this is a needed resource. Talk to anyone who will listen until something is done.
Support for the LGBTQIA+ community has come a long way but there is still more work to be done. Support will continue to get better and grow if we all are helping, so check out how you can get involved on campus.