Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Gap Between "School Self" and "Home Self"

It's always heartening to me when senior leaders at my college of employ initiate conversations about LGBTQ topics. A dean recently shared with me an article that included stats from an HRC study of over 10,000 LGBT youth, ages 13-17.

The comparative data was most fascinating, showing how different the priorities are from LGBT youth versus non-LGBT youth.
Source: HRC report "Growing Up LGBT in America"
The LGBT youth responses on the left are primarily concerned with issues of safety and belonging, whereas non-LGBT respondents were mostly focused on their wallets. Similarly, when youth were asked about the biggest problems they are currently dealing with (below), over a quarter of LGBT youth's were trying to cope with families who don't support them and another one of five LGBT youth were having to deal with bullying at school. In contrast, non-LGBT youth get to focus on the things we'd hope young people would be prioritizing--school work and looking ahead to college and their careers.
Source: HRC report "Growing Up LGBT in America"
These data give us a window into what baggage the majority of LGBTQ youth are bringing to college, and makes a really important case for why LGBTQ students may need more support and resources than their hetero peers. In particular, coping with family is clearly a major challenge for many LGBT students and one that higher ed administrators need to be attuned to.

I know many first year LGBTQ students at my school are particularly struggling with the dilemma of being out and comfortable in college, but not being sure how much of themselves they'll be asked to censor when they go home for the holidays. As the gap between "school self" and "home self" widens, the harder it can be on students. More energy has to go into thinking about what they'll say or not say, be or not be.

All of this is a major barrier to equal opportunity education--most LGBTQ students have significant LGBTQ-related challenges to bear in addition to normal stresses of college. I wish there could be a way for unaccepting families to understand that their intolerance negatively affects their child's chances to take full advantage of their education.

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