Rosel: Now that summer is on its way out (sniff), it’s time to talk about the upcoming school year. It seems like there are some interesting changes happening in the States regarding LGBT school population; Jezebel reported this week that Elmhurst College in Illinois has become the first college to ask LGBT students to self-identify, as well as offer the first scholarship open exclusively to LGBT-identified students. What do you think about this?
Alex: I’m all for it. Frankly, if you’re out in college than the faculty and other students generally know already. Coming out “on paper” doesn’t change anything in terms of a student’s personal life really, and could be useful for the administration to know how diverse the student population is. And if you get money for it, all the better.
R: I have a few thoughts on this – first, it was interesting to see how one commenter on Jezebel stated that Elmhurst is a pretty conservative college, and that the LGBT thing seemed like the college’s effort to reinvent itself in order to prevent a drop in their enrollment. If that’s the case, does this create more vulnerabilities for LGBT students?
A: I think it does the opposite. If anything it makes it harder for the administration to discriminate because suddenly everything is documented and kept on record. Now the university is claiming some sort of accountability. I doubt that queer students are going to solely choose Elmhurst just because of a scholarship if the school remains an unwelcoming space.
R: True. It’ll at least get the queer students to consider Elmhurst as an option, as opposed to brushing it off entirely. Another thought I have is whether there should be more outreach towards LGBT students before they apply to college. I remember Dan Savage saying that a large population of homeless youths are LGBT (because their parents kick them out), most of whom probably can’t even think about college, let alone next week. If a queer student is thinking about colleges and applying for an LGBT-exclusive scholarship, that means they’re economically comfortable and possibly out to their supposedly accepting family, right?
A: I agree completely: I don’t want to stereotype too much, but I feel college is where most queers finally get to feel comfortable being themselves and finding their tribe. It’s high school where queer kids are most vulnerable and the real work needs to be done there. Not that what Elmhurst hasn’t taken a great step, but I’d rather see more news about anti-bullying initiatives and that sort of thing. Maybe even more importantly, the standards that school boards hold their employees to need to catch up with all the progressive rhetoric. Just look at the recent Facebook controversy.
R: Do you think Canadian universities/colleges would ever offer a scholarship for LGBT students?
A: Queer college students get a mixed bag deal here in Canada. I think the scholarship is a direct reaction to the discrimination that is so prevalent in the U.S right now. Not that things are perfect here, but the intense political and social pressure put on universities just isn’t the same. I can say that considering there’s a scholarship for almost everything these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually did something similar here. What about you?
What do you think about identity-based scholarships in general?
R: As a recipient of a few identity-based scholarships myself, I think they are a helpful way of boosting your community. I don’t think that Canadian universities would be the ones pushing for scholarships like this – the feeling I get is that many Canadian institutions are wary of identity politics (perhaps because we didn’t have a prolonged history of slavery), except for when it comes to gender parity. So unless a donor establishes a scholarship for LGBT students, I don’t think it’ll happen.
A: The catch is that I get the feeling that most people who have the money to create a LGBTQ scholarship are more likely to donate funds to other charities. So it is unlikely that we’ll see anything anytime soon.
R: If you’re an LGBTQ youth and need support and resources, Project 10 in Montreal offers a listening line (514-989-4585, 12-6pm on Mondays-Thursdays) as well as peer counselling. Ontario-based group Youthline also offers a toll-free number (1-800-268-9688), as well as an online to chat with one of the volunteers.
A: And we’d be remiss if we neglected to mention the ever-growing It Gets Better Project, which anyone can contribute to or use, regardless of where they live. It’s a great resource for those kids going to high schools that have very little room for them to be who they are.