I see you. I hear you. I am here for you. And so are many others. If you’re not feeling that love and support, please be sure to look beyond your immediate boundaries.
If you’re queer, trans, nonbinary, genderfluid, or otherwise LGBQTQ, I have no doubt you are more than aware of the anti-trans legislation sweeping across the US in record numbers this spring. And for those of you who are reading who aren’t trans or queer or nonbinary or lgbtq+ and you feel like you’re sick of reading about all these transgender issues, well, guess what. We – and I include myself as an ally/accomplice/mom to a transgender daughter – are sick of talking about it. Since 2021, in the US, there’s been a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed — almost half of those anti-trans. In the first 3 1/2 months of 2023, there have been over 400 pieces of anti-trans legislation at the state level. Currently (as of March 5, 2023), there are 432 bills geared toward anti-trans legislation in 41 states. These are scary times for our trans brothers and sisters and non-binary and genderqueer siblings. This NBC news article highlights the worries, thoughts, and feelings so many trans students and their parents and loved ones are feeling about moving forward in their lives. It’s not fair that during what should be one of the most exciting journeys of your lives, you’re forced to add anti-trans state legislation, fear of hate crimes, and hostile rhetoric to your long list of things you should be worried about as a teenager who’s applying to college, like applications, essays, testing, course rigor, and acceptances.
I mean, applying to college is stressful enough, but worrying about whether a state is actively legislating against you and whether a college will have your back can make it especially tough. Like everything college admissions, I encourage you to ask questions and learn as much as possible about admissions, campus safety, and the culture and vibe on campus. See, even in these dark days, by taking some time and learning more with intention, you can find a space where you can thrive. Many college campuses are overwhelmingly supportive spaces, and you can find places to grow and live the life you want to live. But your safety comes first.
So, I think, first and foremost, you must find schools that are in safe states and that openly accept queer students. And I think you should consider being open about it in your application — especially if you’re trans and planning to transition while in college — using the additional information section to explain your situation, whether you’ve already transitioned, for the most part, are in the process, or are planning to in the future. Trans students have to be aware of some practical concerns that could have an effect on their college experience, like the dorm and bathroom situation. Are you applying with a transcript of one gender but know you plan to transition while in college? In that case, you might want to look for schools that have mixed-gender floors and bathrooms.
Many liberal arts colleges are particularly safe and welcoming to the queer community, where you can fully embrace your queer and trans joy. You can find out by snooping around their website, going on a visit and asking students or the admissions office, or checking out their LGBTQ clubs and groups online and seeing how active they are. If you can visit, definitely stop by and check any services or LGBTQ+ centers they may have for you. Or reach out to them online or by phone. Ask if there is one; if there’s not, that might be a sign that the school wouldn’t be particularly welcoming.
🏳️⚧️You Need To Start Here – State Laws:
Now – more than ever – it’s essential for you to not only look into how accommodating the college is for you as a trans or queer student but also it’s necessary to investigate the state laws. As of right now, March 5, 2023, these states appear not to have any current legislation against trans or other queer students, so for now, I’m using this list from Erin Reed, who‘s on Instagram as @ErinInTheMorning and TikTok and Twitter as @Erininthemorn to create my lists of “Safest and Safer States.” I subscribe to Erin’s substack email list, where she sends super helpful information. If you’re a parent, advocate, or loved one, I recommend subscribing to her email list. She gives amazing up-to-date news, insight, and info.
A note: These are tumultuous times, and this list could easily – and quickly – change:
Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Washington DC, New Mexico, Minnesota, Hawaii
Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Maine, Rhode Island
WORST ACTIVE ANTI-TRANS LAWS:
TEXAS, TENNESSEE, FLORIDA, Utah, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama – and I’d also steer clear of Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho
More info and resources about State Laws: From Alex McNeil from McNeil Admissions: here’s a resource you can use to get a picture of the legal landscape: LGBTMAP.org provides an overview of hate crime laws across the US with detailed data if you click thru: https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/hate_crime_laws
- More places to research state laws and legislation:
🏳️⚧️ Suggested Trans-Friendly Colleges:
I’ve heard from trans students or parents of trans students that these colleges are Trans Friendly in the states listed above (who do NOT have anti-trans legislation currently passed or pending (as always, you must do your own research here – things are changing quickly). I’m always looking for more suggestions, so please feel free to make suggestions based on your research or your experiences. Sadly, Louisiana, Virginia, Nebraska, and Ohio all have current anti-trans legislation pending or passed, eliminating some of my favorite colleges to suggest on this list:
Massachusetts: Babson, Tufts, U Mass Amherst, Clark U, Hampshire College, Northeastern, Simmons, Smith, Wheaton College, MIT, Harvard, Brandeis, Boston U
New York: Ithaca College, Vassar, SUNY New Paltz, Bard, The New School, Sarah Lawrence, Skidmore, NYU, Columbia, Barnard
New Jersey: Rutgers, Princeton
Connecticut: U Conn, Wesleyan, Yale
Rhode Island: Brown
Vermont: UVM, Bennington, Champlain
Illinois: Knox, Augustana, UIUC
Wisconsin: Lawrence, Beloit
Colorado: CU Boulder, Fort Collins, U Denver
Washington: Washington State, U Washington, Evergreen, U Puget Sound, Western Washington, Whitman
Oregon: U Oregon, Pacific U Oregon, Oregon State, Lewis and Clark, Reed
California: Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, USC, UC Santa Barbara, Occidental, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, (and various other UC and CSU schools have been mentioned, but you’d need to check them out).
Arizona: Northern Arizona U
Pennsylvania: Allegheny, Swarthmore
🏳️⚧️SIX Tips for Trans, Nonbinary, and Genderqueer Applicants:
- SELF–CARE: First and foremost, please take care of yourself. Here’s what I know: Trans people are magic. Embrace your joy, your sense of who you are, your ability to see beyond the binary, and the ways you understand the world around you. I know it feels awful and overwhelming and scary right now – I’m truly scared right now, but you are so much more than that fear. I have lots of posts about mindfulness and dealing with the stress of college admissions, and some of that will work for you for sure if you allow yourself to try it. But, my number one piece of advice to you to make it through these roughest of times is to hold on to you who you are, embrace your joy, share your magic, and know that there are people out there who love you and care about you even if you don’t know them – and you are not alone. Hug your loved ones –even if it’s just a teddy bear. Find someone to talk to in a safe space. Parents and caretakers, show your kids you are there for them. Talk to them. Hug them.
- Keep up with the forms: While many colleges ask for your preferred name, you may still need to use your birth name if it hasn’t been legally changed yet so that all your paperwork and files won’t get lost or disorganized. A note from an A2C parent of 2 transgender students, u/teresajs: “If you choose to use your preferred name (on your application and/or at college), your college may use that name when contacting your parents. For instance, I’ve gotten emails from colleges my youngest child applied to that used their preferred name and had a student employee call from my eldest’s college during a fund drive who used their preferred name. If you aren’t out to your family, you may not want to officially use a preferred name at school. The method for asking for gender-neutral housing, signing up to use a preferred name, and getting support is different at each school. In most cases, the best point of contact seems to be the school’s LGBTQ+ organization.”
- Reach out to the School’s LGBTQ+/Campus Pride Organization. Ask questions. Educate yourselves about the environment on and around campus:
- Have they had instances of anti-trans, anti-queer, anti-gay violence or bullying?
- How do queer and trans students mix with others?
- What kind of support do they provide for your community, especially during these tumultuous times? Think about
- Your Essays: To come out or not to come out? You don’t have to write about being trans or gay or queer etc, in your essays, but you certainly can if it’s a story you want to tell. If you’re worried it might hurt you in admissions, ask yourself this question: Do I want to attend a college that would deny me because of who I am? Below, I’ve linked to College Essays Guy’s great posts that are based on a workshop he held last summer that I attended.
- Research Sources to Find LGBTQ + Friendly Colleges: In addition to websites like Campus Pride Index, make sure you research more local sources and like I’m a broken record, I’m gonna say it again, make sure you’re researching state laws:
- Local LGBTQ+ Center: https://www.lgbtcenters.org/LGBTCenters
- Local PFLAG chapter: Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) — https://pflag.org/find-a-chapter
- Campus Centers — https://www.lgbtcampus.org/find-an-lgbtq-campus-center
- City Rankings — Municipal Equality Index 2020 – HRC
- School Participation in local pride events
- College’s Mission Statement
- LGBTQ+ Campus Groups that are funded by the school
- If possible, visit the school and meet with the LBGTQ+ groups and organizations.
- Talk to Admissions. Ask Questions: Be sure to ask colleges these kinds of questions when doing your research or reaching out or on tours/visits/info sessions:
- Do they have sexual identity and gender-inclusive housing?
- Do they have a nondiscrimination policy for trans/queer students?
- Do they allow students to change their names on campus records?
- What resources and opportunities do they have to support trans/queer students?
- Do the schools’ health clinics and health plans cover trans medical care if that’s something you are interested in?
🏳️⚧️10 College Campus Red Flags for LGBTQ+ Students and Allies from (collegetorch.com):
Here’s the link to the doc.
- You don’t see yourself joining at least one LGBTQ or intersectional group on campus.
- There is almost no overlap between athletics and the LGBTQ+ Community
- Bathrooms are a huge campus topic. Bathrooms should be easy
- They don’t offer LGBTQ+ housing options
- You can’t find explicit LGBTQ+ language in mission statements and non-discrimination policies.
- You don’t find a lot of out Trans/LGBTQ+ faculty and staff
- You don’t see pride symbols around campus except at the LGBTQ center
- You don’t feel much of a connection at the LGBTQ center
- The health center isn’t aware/can’t answer your questions about trans and nonbinary topics
- The school requested or received a Title IX exemption – Run away!
🏳️⚧️ Should you write about being LGBTQ+ in your essay? More thoughts and resources:
As far as writing about it, that will be up to you. My suggestion is to use the Additional Info section if you feel like there are issues you’ve had or any circumstances that have affected your application because of being trans, nonbinary, or genderqueer. But I def don’t think there’s any harm in discussing who you are in your essay, either.
To me, if a college didn’t want to accept me for an essential part of who I am, then I wouldn’t want to go there. So, I ask you, why would you want to go to a college that wouldn’t accept you simply because you’re trans, gender non-conforming, gay, or another gender or sexual minority?
- Should I come out in my college essay? College Essay Guy has a three-part series that’s well worth reading!!!
- How to Come Out in Your College Essay (In a Way That Will Actually Help Get You Into College) Part 2 of CEG’s series
- 10 Great Example Essays by LGBTQ+ Students
🏳️⚧️ More Helpful Resources for Finding Schools That Work for You!
- Last spring, a few private consultants and I created an infographic for Trans Applicants in Texas, but many of the points will be more global (and some are already here in this post).
- www.CampusPrideIndex.org – This is the site where you might want to spend the most time on their rating cards, tips, indexes, etc. Look for their college fairs! Just be aware that it’s not always the most up-to-date regarding state laws – especially for trans students.
- College Experience Guide for LGBTQ Students from BestColleges.com
- LGBTQ-Friendly Campuses from Princeton Review
- LGBTQ-Unfriendly Campuses from Princeton Review
- LGBTQ College Culture Guide — highlights LGBTQ learners’ rights, introduces resources for LGBTQ college students, and summarizes the key features of LGBTQ-friendly college cultures.
- MIT’s Blog: Applying While Transgender
- FAQ About Transgender Students at Colleges and Universities
- Campus Pride Trans Policy Clearinghouse (https://www.campuspride.org/tpc/)
- Where do I start? (College Search Resources for LGBTQ+ Students) – College Essay Guy Podcast with Shane Windmeyer, (Founder, Campus Price)
- Minding Your P’s and Q’s to Choose Your Perfect LGBTQ Campus
- Campus Visit Score Card
- Ask the Admission Office: Diversity on Campus
🏳️⚧️ I love what u/collegesimp on the subreddit r/ApplyingToCollege shared on a post asking for advice from one of our transgender friends:
“Campus Pride is a great resource, yeah! They measure by a bunch of stuff, including a general list of inclusive schools, but if you want to assess a school on your own, they also give lists of schools with various trans-inclusive policies that you can look at to check any places you’re considering. Here are a few of the ones that will likely be most useful to you:
- Colleges that provide gender-inclusive housing (meaning you can room with someone of any gender)
- Colleges that allow students to use a chosen first name and pronouns on records
- Colleges that cover transition-related medical costs under the student insurance plan
- If you’re considering women’s colleges, here are some with formal policies to admit trans applicants
- And here is a useful article detailing questions for trans students to ask when considering schools to get a sense of their policies.”
Thanks for sharing all your wisdom and experience, u/CollegeSimp!
🏳️⚧️ Scholarship Opportunities for LGBTQ+ applicants and students:
- Top Scholarships for LGBTQ Students — blog post from NerdWallet with 9 scholarships for LGBTQ+ students
- HRC Student Scholarship Database — List of scholarships and grants created by Human Rights Campaign
- GAMMA MU Foundation — The Gamma Mu Foundation focuses on rural and other underserved LGBTQ+ populations across the US
- Point Foundation — “Point Foundation empowers promising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential – despite the obstacles often put before them – to make a significant impact on society.”
- Stonewall Community Foundation Scholarship — From their site “We take education seriously, knowing that it has the power to help LGBTQ people overcome complex social and economic barriers. For nearly 15 years, we have partnered with donors to create scholarships that provide unique opportunities and access to education, both in New York City and throughout the country.”
- College Data had a great post on Instagram listing some regionally specific scholarships.
- TSER Scholarships – Scholarships for Trans and Gender-Diverse Students
Scholarships – (transstudent.org)
- Live Out Loud Scholarships: Scholarships – Live Out Loud
- Pride Foundation: Scholarship Opportunities – Pride Foundation
- Human Rights Campaign — Multiple LGBTQIA Scholarships
- Scholarship Database – Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org)
🏳️⚧️Follow on Instagram
@HRC, @PointFoundation, @CampusPride, @Glsen, @HumanRightsCampaign, @PinkMantaRay, @PrideLiveOfficial, @TransStudent, @TransLawCenter, @GLSEN, @MegemikoArt, @PFlag, @TransEqualityNow, @ParentsOfTransYouth, @ErinInTheMorning
🏳️⚧️ Follow on Twitter (if you’re still there – I’m not):
@NCLRights, @StandWithTrans, @ErinInTheMorn, @MrsBriggle, @EqualityTexas, @ItGetsBetter, @ACLU
🏳️⚧️What can you do as an ally, advocate, parent, loved one, or accomplice?
The best thing you can do is show your support. Acknowledge what’s happening in our country today, and don’t try to diminish your loved one’s concerns. The fear is real. The concerns are real. The danger is real. Educate yourself and learn as much as possible about locations that will be safe for your child, friend, or loved one. Send letters to your state and US Representatives and Senators, letting them know you support the trans community.
If you’re interested, here’s a copy of an email I sent to my senators and representatives this weekend. I’m not expecting a response. I just want them (or whoever reads my letters) to hear my voice and support.
🏳️⚧️I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about applying to college as a gay, queer, trans, or non-binary student before the last five years or so. When my daughter came out as trans in 2018, I’d worked with a couple of kids on the ApplyingToCollege subreddit, and tried to help them work through issues with applications, but I hadn’t spent a lot of time researching or learning. I’m starting to learn, and while I’m thrilled that there are so many resources available, the hurdles to applying to college as a trans, nonbinary, or genderqueer applicant seem to be growing. I try to attend as many NACAC, IECA, and HECA webinars as possible. And I’m trying to follow as many transgender supporting activists as possible to keep up with the barrage of legislation to share with you. However, there’s still so much to learn, and the circumstances are constantly changing – and growing more and more challenging literally by the day. So, please, as you’re learning about resources and hints and tips, share them below! I’ll be sure to add them in. If you’re a junior, your admissions journeys are just revving up, so don’t hesitate to be proactive to find the safest and healthiest environment for you. Ask questions, research, and be your own best advocate. 💖✨💖
And, as always, feel free to ask questions! I’ll try to answer or maybe someone in our fabulous community can help!
“When we’re growing up, there are all sorts of people telling us what to do when what we really need is space to work out who to be. “ — Elliot Page
Trans Rights are Human Rights
- Check state laws and legislation
- Reach out to LGBTQ+ centers on campus
- Do your research
- Ask questions
- Be careful with your forms and using your name if you haven’t come out officially
- If you feel like you’re in danger of self-harm or you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, and you’re in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 988
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