Story by Jessica Crabtree
Almost every day this past semester you could see Dance freshman Josh S. Allred and his cheerful attitude in the cafeteria almost always talking with friends. But beyond his outgoing personality, he has faced many challenges as a gay student.
In August, he was very excited to begin college, hopeful of classmates being more open and accepting of homosexuality. After the first weekend at college, however, he realized not everyone is accepting.
Soon Allred could sense that there was tension between people in his dorm and that they were uncomfortable with his sexuality. There have since been a few instances where he has been offended by the number of students who don’t accept lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students.
Apart from some students, including members of the Repertory Dance Ensemble, Josh said, “I don’t really feel like I’m a part of the main community on campus.” He has become fearful when on campus because of stories on the news of gay students being bullied by others.
LGBT students being bullied most of the time doesn’t start at the college level, but in middle and high schools. According to a 2009 survey of 7,261 middle and high school students conducted by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), “Nine out of 10 students experienced harassment at school that year because of their sexual orientation.”
LGBT high school students looking at colleges search for gay friendly colleges and universities. They will sometimes choose colleges that have friendly campuses even over academics and aid and scholarships available.
According to an article from EBSCO, most fears and experiences of LGBT students being bullied and/or threatened are “most common in the South and Midwest, where anti-LGBT sentiments tend to be reinforced by religious teachings and state laws.”
While most college campuses don’t always welcome LGBT students, “several public and private colleges and universities have successfully campaigned to include sexual orientation in their institutional nondiscrimination policies,” according to the article. Several LGBT youth, student, and employee organizations and resource centers have been established recently as well.
Overall, LGBT students are still not widely accepted on college campuses. Bullying, taunts, and threats are still made, causing numerous problems as well as an increase in fear and suicide. Some LGBT students who chose a college that wasn’t gay friendly leave the campus and transfer to others that are more welcoming. A list of 258 gay friendly campuses can be found on the LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index. The University of Missouri, Kansas City, was one of the top 25 most diverse and accepting college-level institutions of 2011, according to the list.
For Josh, he has decided to move back to Kansas City where he plans to work, take online classes, and take classes at the Kansas City Ballet School. He said, “I hope that future MVC students that come for the arts that are gay have a better experience than I did.” He said that having a gay support group or organization that promoted tolerance would help the MVC campus a lot with making gay students more comfortable while at college.
Everyone has their own challenges and struggles they’ve faced, even if they may not show it on the outside. What’s yours?