Students change college plans when states pass anti-LGBTQ legislation

Anti-LGBTQ legislation in states across the U.S. is driving some students not to apply to colleges in those places.

Cody Nobles plans to study marine biology or environmental science at a college near a beach town. He can then observe the ocean’s life firsthand.

Nobles is gay and has been living in Florida since his state passed legislation that restricted LGBTQ rights. He now plans to seek out a similar environment with a different political climate. He said that he would not have to worry about discrimination in California or physical assault.

Cody stated that he came to terms with the reality that he might have to include those things in where he goes, as you never know what I might end up doing. He expressed concern over the possibility of attending school in “a place that has a history of hate crimes or a very traditional view of gender.”

He said, “For me personally I just naturally assumed that I was going to college down there.” “But if it got worse, then I suppose that I would not have any choice.”

Florida lawmakers passed laws that prohibit classroom discussion about gender identity or sexual orientation in primary school. also aims to limit race-based analysis and conversation in business and education. Another recently passed bill would allow the state board to direct how majors and minors are removed from subjects such as critical race theory or gender studies, and prohibit spending on activities or programs that support these curricula.

Cindy Nobles, Cody’s mother and president of the Jacksonville chapter PFLAG’s LGBTQ advocacy group, stated that Florida’s LGBTQ legislation “changed the way I look at every school.”

“I have to take a look at the board and not worry about whether or not it will be suitable for his major. Before I worry about his major, I need to consider the political views of those in charge of the schools.

Interviews with parents, students and counselors at colleges have shown that LGBTQ youth are striking college campuses in states where such legislation has been pushed. Students worry about not having hormone therapy at school. Some want to live in schools that offer all-gender housing. Others fear that hostile rhetoric could increase their risk of being physically abused.

State legislators across the country have taken steps to limit LGBTQ rights. There are hundreds already this year. Some bills would prohibit transgender students to participate in sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Others would stop people changing the gender of their official documents or force teachers to inform parents any information they have on a student’s gender identity.

Advocates warn that a shift in college application from LGBTQ students could result in fewer diversity at colleges. Colleges are where learning is about meeting people of diverse backgrounds. Sarah Eckhardt (a Democratic state senator from Texas) also warns that legislation targeting LGBTQ rights may impede academic research and damage the state’s economy.

Eckhardt spokesperson said that the state is home to many of the best universities in the country and that GOP lawmakers are bent on violating the safety and rights of these top-ranked institutions. “Texans face a difficult task in advocating simple equality with almost 75 bills that would be harmful to the state and our LGBTQ+ community.

Florida Gov. Florida Governor Last week, the bill which would require universities to remove majors or minors in gender studies and other programs that deal with diversity — an issue DeSantis championed — was introduced into the Florida Legislature.

“Like DEI or CRT, radical feminist ideology has supplanted academics in many institutions of higher learning,” Jeremy Redfern (DeSantis’ deputy press secretary) said in a statement. He was referring to policies on diversity and equity, inclusion, and critical race theory which teaches about structural racism. “We are determined to fully understand the amount of public money going towards such non-academic pursuits in order to best determine how we can get our colleges and universities refocused to education and truth.”

Redfern declined evidence or comments on whether fewer LGBTQ students will want to attend Florida’s public universities and colleges as a result state actions.

Although research is still limited on the impact of anti-LGBTQ legislation on college applications, college counselors report that families are now more likely to raise the issue when deciding where to go. Venkates Swaminathan is the chief executive at LifeLaunchr. He said that between 20-30 percent of the hundreds of students he counsels express concern about state legislation. Daniel Santos CEO of Prepory college counselling echoed this point. He said that one of his gay students had struck every college located in a red state off their list this year. This included the University of Florida and the University of Texas at Austin.

Eric Sherman, a counselor with IvyWise in New York, stated that between 10% and 15% percent of students he works alongside flag campus climates for LGBTQ students as a concern. He said that LGBTQ students tend to “categorically exclude some parts of the country”.

Brandon Wolf, the press secretary of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida said that fear is the driving force behind the issue.

Wolf stated that it is scary to send a child out of the nest into the world. After 18 years of making sure they have three meals per day, had clothes on their backs and had a shower every morning, Wolf was not surprised. It’s frightening to send your child off to the unknown. This becomes even more frightening when you consider that they may be sent to a country where the most powerful leader of that state might place a target on them.

According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, the number of instances of violence against LGBTQ people has more than tripled in the past year. Renan Barker (17 years old) from Ohio said that they would like to go to school in California where they don’t have to worry about their safety. Barker was unable to afford out-of-state tuition so he will instead attend Kent State University. Barker expressed concern about leaving home, in addition to the nervous excitement that many college students feel when they start college.

“If I were to be hurt or abused, I would not be able to just say, “Mom, please help me.” Barker stated that he doesn’t have that safety net, comfort.

Stella Keating refuses to attend school in a state that has seen anti-trans bill bills reach the legislative floor. This is a sign of support from lawmakers. She said that the politicians’ rhetoric regarding LGBTQ people had adversely affected her mental well-being. It excuses the behavior. Keating stated that transphobia is allowed everywhere. It makes it appear that my senator can do the same thing as I. It’s fine to make fun of trans students at school.

Stella Keating, at the Protect Trans Kids Rally last week. Jamika Scott

A 2021 survey conducted by Trevor Project, a LGBTQ suicide prevention group, found that 94% of LGBTQ youth said recent politics had adversely affected their mental health.

Parents of LGBTQ students said that their concerns about state politics have influenced how they approach school selections for their children.

Melissa McLaren, a Ohio resident and transgender mother, stated that she looked at college websites to find out if they offered LGBTQ-specific housing, health services for LGBTQ students, or mental health programs for LGBTQ youth.

Cindy Nobles conducted research on campus crime rates and antiLGBTQ violence in schools of interest to Cody.

Nobles stated, “At this stage there are so many issues that we need to worry about. To be honest I don’t even know where it all starts.” It made what should have been a joyful time in his life extremely stressful for me as a parent.

Ellen Kahn (senior director of programs partnerships and programs at the Human Rights Campaign), an LGBTQ advocacy group, stated that some colleges in conservative states have taken steps to counter the possible influence of anti-LGBTQ laws. She said that anti-LGBTQ legislation is a “clarion cry” for higher education leaders and some colleges have started to compete to be the school of choice for LGBTQ students.

Santos stated that Duke University has added an option to their application form for LGBTQ students to share their identity as well as how it affects them. Sherman said that students are more open to applying to schools that have a focus on LGBTQ student centers and other support services.

Shane Windmeyer is the founder and executive director at Campus Pride. Campus Pride helps students find LGBTQ-friendly campuses. Windmeyer stated that some colleges in red states like the University of North Florida or the University of Texas at Austin are providing a “safehaven” for LGBTQ students.

Wolf of Equality Florida stated that Florida’s higher education system is losing out on talented students due to the state’s legislation. Kahn also echoed this point, saying that she worries about “brain sink”.

Cindy Nobles said that she is considering sending Cody to Michigan because he would be more secure there. Cindy Nobles stated that “it has been discussed.” “Although I don’t wish to see him move across this country, it is possible for his safety that I have to.”

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