LGBT students find support at post-secondary level
CTV Southwestern Ontario
Published Wednesday, April 20, 2011 6:12PM EDT
While most colleges and universities have some kind of diversity and equity office to help students, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) youth are also forming their own support networks.
Post-secondary institutions are trying to reach out to students of diverse ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations, and increasingly students are finding a sense of community in on campus groups.
For the LGBT community at the University of Waterloo (UW), GLOW: The Queer and Questioning Community Centre, fulfils that need for support.
Adam Garcia is an administrator at GLOW, he says "Some of the things that we do are providing peer support, advocacy, social events, education for the campus community and overall just kind of creating awareness and visibility for the queer and trans community."
For UW student A.Y. Daring, meeting other people who could relate to her experiences, helped make the transition to university easier.
"There was no long a dichotomy between having really, really great friends and a really great public life, and being able to integrate that with your personal life," she says.
GLOW was established in 1971, making it the longest running LGBT organization in Canada. It works in conjunction with UW's Counselling Services, which provides assistance in all areas of student life.
Heather Westmorland is the director of the UW Student Life Office, she says there is a similarity among LGBT students who seek advice.
"In my experience it's been students who are coming out for the first time in a new environment and dealing with that in addition to all the other transitional issues that they might be experiencing as a first year student."
At nearby Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU), community building for LGBT students is paid for by the school. Students can connect with each other at the Rainbow Centre and the Centre for Women and Trans People.
Dana Gillett is an employment equity and AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities) officer at WLU.
"That may be different from other universities, but it's actually funded by the university as a student service and is really an important piece of the student service portfolio," Gillett says.
Garcia adds that campus LGBT groups like GLOW and the Rainbow Centre make things easier for both students and staff.
"What we really do is we take the load off Counselling Services. We help students form their own support networks and not need to rely on those kinds of other services that are available."
And because of those support systems, students like Daring say the perception of the LGBT community is slowly changing.
"Negative reactions to coming out are more and more becoming weird ones," she says. "If someone's like, ‘Oh my God, you're Gay?' and they're offended, it's like we have this cultural attitude now, ‘Why would you be offended?'"
Coming up in part three: What improvements can be made to help the LGBT community feel more comfortable on campus?