Ithaca College was recently ranked with five stars for being lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly. The college was one of 19 universities in the country to receive five stars, but I wasn’t too surprised by the ranking. I have worked with The Office of Residential Life to help establish a learning community on campus for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender students and their allies, known as House of Roy. As an LGBT student and through my work with Residential Life, I have realized how much faculty and Residential Life care about students regardless of whether we identify as LGBT or not.
But although our campus has fantastic LGBT allies, a resourceful LGBT Resource Center and five shiny stars, not everything is golden. Our campus is generally LGBT-friendly in that we have four LGBT student organizations on campus and an LGBT Resource Center. Our resource center is complete with a good amount of resourceful books and DVDs and is a place to escape for students. Not all colleges of our size have LGBTA housing or four campus organizations. All of these wonderful things make it at times easy to forget that those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender are a minority
It is not all about what Campus Pride, a national nonprofit organization that works to create a safer environment for LGBT students, rates us on a 1-to-5 scale. But it is about remembering that there are other issues within the LGBT community that need to be addressed and taken into consideration.
Some of us LGBT students can’t go home on Thanksgiving or Winter break since we are no longer welcome in our family’s homes because of whom we love. And when applying to graduate schools, some LGBT students feel as if they cannot ask their professors and advisers for lists of LGBT-friendly schools.
All students on campus, regardless of sexuality, can make small improvements to help make the college better. Improvements can be as small as taking a visit down to the LGBT Resource Center to see what it is all about, or even eliminating statements like “that’s so gay” from their vocabulary. Joining an LGBTA student organization like Prism, or visiting a group’s Facebook page, can help students understand each other.
We also need to keep in mind that the LGBT community is already a minority, but there are sub-minorities within the community. An example would be women of color who are not widely represented around our campus, but are a part of our community. Another example would be students who identify themselves as transgender. Transgender students are often discriminated against, forgotten or left out within the actual LGBT community and even more so in greater society.
As a student and a member of the LGBT community, I am very proud to see that the college shares the same five-star rating with schools such as Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley. But we need to keep in mind that each student sitting in a class or dining hall may be fighting a battle we know nothing about, and even with five golden stars, there is always room for improvement.
Catherine Kirchhoff is a senior health policy studies major. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.