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"I’m a queer high school senior, and am highly considering applying to an all women’s college that happens to have very strong LGBTQ+ life. My parents are less than thrilled and want me to just go to a regular co-ed college and not be surrounded by other queer folk. How do I explain that this is more important to me than they realize?"

- Question asked by Anonymous and answered by Red Davidson as part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.

Red Says:

I could go a couple different directions with my answer.  Firstly, I’m curious about your sentence, “My parents are less than thrilled and want me to just go to a regular co-ed college and not be surrounded by other queer folk.”  Have your parents actually said or implied the part about not wanting you to “be surrounded by other queer folk”? Or do they not want you to attend a school without (cis) men?  If they aren’t specifically hung up on the “being around queer people” detail, convincing them how important going to a women’s college is to you might be easier.  Also, while I definitely want you to be able to go to a women’s college if that’s where you want to be the most, you should also keep in mind that there are co-ed colleges that are LGBTQIAP+ positive and have strong queer communities. Oberlin and Hampshire come to mind, although I don’t know exactly what kind of atmosphere you’re looking for.  For other colleges that might be more queer-friendly, I’d recommend checking out The Princeton Review’s ranking of the “most LGBT friendly colleges.” Campus Pride also has a lot of resources for LGBT college students.

On to answering your actual question, though! I think the most important thing to do is to figure out why specifically you want to go to your given college.  One of the biggest reasons I originally became interested in Smith was that, out of all of the colleges I visited, its community felt the most welcoming and comfortable to me.  But even if you haven’t visited your preferred school(s), what about it stands out to you? What about its history, current student body/politics, academics, housing system, etc.? If it will be difficult (or just impossible) to convince your parents that you should be able to go to a school because of its queer community, building an argument about the other reasons a school is important to you might be more effective. Also, a generally good argument to use about attending a women’s college (whether you think it’s actually relevant to you or not) is to point out that a lot of women in “positions of power” graduated from a women’s college.

While you’re primarily going to college to get an education, a residential college is also where you’ll be spending the better part of four years.  And having access to a community that you know will be made up of people with similar experiences to yours, and where you will likely be safer, should be just as important as academic components of choosing a college.  Having access to queer spaces and resources will diminish the presence of at least one potential stressor in your life, and will also probably make it easier to concentrate on your school work. If you think your parents might find that a compelling argument about why access to queer spaces is important to you, you can try saying that as well. I don’t think a lot of straight people—even if they aren’t overtly homophobic—really understand the value of being surrounded by other queer people. Though queer spaces aren’t without their problems or tensions, they’re still usually a lot easier to be in, because you don’t have to navigate assumptions about your sexuality in the same way.

I wish you luck in your decision making process and hope you enjoy wherever you end up!

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