At any college, the LGBTQ+ resource center is the central hub for LGBTQ+ life on campus. Every resource center is individual, offering its own services and located in its own type of space. Students in the process of researching best-fit colleges for LGBTQ+ students should not neglect the role the resource center can play in the college experience of an LGBTQ+ student.
Let’s explore 11 high-powered offerings an LGBTQ+ resource center can offer its students, in no particular order.
1: Pride Symbols
Rainbow and pink-and-blue flags, stickers, posters, mugs, window decals, pins, buttons, ribbons, t-shirts, tassels, iPhone cases, nail polish, and a heavy-duty color laser printer to print your own messages in full Pride color and walk away with as many copies as you can carry. Not only are these fun and feel-good, but they create community visibility and promote a campus-wide culture of acceptance. 2: A Physical Space
Not all campuses have a physical space for the LGBTQ+ resource center. The ones that do recognize that their space has a specific value as a place to connect, congregate, build community, and get and give support around potentially sensitive topics. They are often thoughtful around how they can serve all students at the school while being a safe place specifically for LGBTQ+ students. Some schools make their LGBTQ+ resource centers highly social spaces, with couches, pillows, stoves and kitchenware, and moveable furniture. At other campuses, out LGBTQ+ students may not feel affirmed or welcome in all spaces on campus, and the LGBTQ+ resource center is a haven they can retreat to and feel safe.
3: A Central Advocate
The LGBTQ+ resource center director is the central point of support for LGBTQ+ students, both personally, as a constant, emotionally supportive presence on campus, and behind the scenes. The resource center is not typically responsible for decisions around policies, funding, liability, social and political advocacy, responsibilities assumed by other offices such as Residential Life, or the greater campus community. However, the resource center director is well-positioned to advocate to decision-makers on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. This is a good and very important person for LGBTQ+ students to connect with when they visit campus.
4: Event Programming
The resource center can organize, coordinate, sponsor, or support events on campus that affirm and create visibility for the LGBTQ+ community. Some events, such as LGBTQ+ orientation programming, may be specifically for the LGBTQ+ community; other events may be for the larger campus community, such as Trans Day of Remembrance. The resource center may organize programming on their own, or they may coordinate with an LGBTQ+ student organization (which are often independent of the resource center).
5: Educational Resources
An LGBTQ+ resource center can provide educational opportunities around the spectrum of genders and sexualities in the LGBTQ+ community, LGBTQ+ history, sexual education, Title IX and other legal protections, trans-specific issues (like how to safely wear a binder), anti-LGBTQ+ state laws and local policies, and politics and social justice. Students at the beginning of their journey of self-discovery may want support along the way, even if they don’t yet know what they need to learn. And all LGBTQ+ students will probably be glad to know that their cisgender, heterosexual peers and faculty have access to information around LGBTQ+ topics.
6: Interoffice Collaborations
The LGBTQ+ resource center cannot usually provide certain specialized services itself. However, the center can coordinate with or advise the offices that can provide those services, including the health and wellness center, the office of residential life, the basic needs office, and the office of counseling and psychological services. At minimum, the center can make sure those offices are knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ issues and ready for students’ needs.
7: Trans-Specific Services
LGBTQ+ resources can provide services specifically to meet the unique needs of trans students. Examples include affirming social events, trans voice training, trans-specific counseling groups, and a gender-affirming clothing closet. They should be ready to advise students seeking gender-affirming care, students trying to change their names and other identifiers in university systems, and students navigating anti-trans laws and policies on campus, off campus, and in their home states.
8: Low-Impact Mental Wellness
Short of providing full psychological services, which another office would typically handle, the LGBTQ+ resource center can provide a wide range of services to support LGBTQ+ students’ mental health, including mindfulness groups, nature activities, retreats, celebrations like lavender graduations, social events like drag night, and casual safe spaces to share stories and vent. If the center offers support groups, those can be led by a counselor or by peers.
9: Opportunities for Mentorship
The LGBTQ+ resource center can actively consider where LGBTQ+ students would find mentorship and guidance on campus, perhaps with a mentorship program that matches students with older peers who share their identity or interests. The center can also build and maintain the LGBTQ+ alumni network, who can offer mentorship to current students. Older LGBTQ+ students may appreciate opportunities to mentor younger college students or high school students.
Unsurprisingly, some of the most important work can happen behind the scenes and before students arrive on campus each fall. The LGBTQ+ resource center can lead or arrange trainings for staff and faculty around LGBTQ+ topics, which will prepare them to support the students and mitigate potential incidents of microaggressions. The center can also arrange ally trainings for students on campus, which could be led by the center director, an outside consultant, or by peer leaders.
11: Services in Summer
Students who come from unsupportive communities, including students with unsupportive parents, may not be eager to leave campus and go home for school breaks. An LGBTQ+ resource center can anticipate this need and create opportunities for students to stay on campus during those periods, with full or limited center services available.
Because every campus LGBTQ+ resource center is unique, be sure to thoroughly research them as you’re conducting your college search and asking all the other important questions in front of you. And, don’t forget to schedule a meeting with the LGBTQ+ resource center director during your campus visit.
By the way, as you’re walking around campus, don’t forget to watch for major red flags that could suggest an unaffirming campus. You can download my resource 10 College Campus Red Flags for LGBTQ+ Students and bring it along with you on your visit to help you remember what to look for.
Robert Powers (he/him) is the founder of College Torch and a college consultant who specializes in helping LGBTQ+ students discover and apply to safe, happy, supportive colleges. If you're the parent of an LGBTQ+ teen or college student, you can join College Torch's Parents of LGBTQ+ College-Bound Students community on Facebook.
You can also find Robert on LinkedIn!