Lesbian til' graduation
Do LGBT-only schools make the grade?
When I was in high school, I often fantasized about attending an all-women's college. If given the chance to attend to an all-LGBT college, I would have used any means necessary to get there—even if I had to switch majors. As an 18-year-old, fresh-out-of-the-closet lesbian, the idea of a quad full of lesbians was quite enticing. But when it comes to the educational part of the experience, is segregating the LGBT population the right way to go? And are LGBT high schools any different than traditionally non-coed private schools?
There are a handful of LGBT-only high schools in the United States today, including Q-High School in Phoenix, Arizona, which opened in April. Q-High is a fledgling program that is limited to online-only coursework, and enrollment is low, but climbing. In New York City, the Harvey Milk High School is more established, but advertises that enrollment is open to all sexual orientations, making it more of a “mostly LGBT” program. There are currently no LGBT-only colleges or universities, but several established schools, such as Old Dominion University in Virginia, provide all-LGBT dorms. At Staten Island College in New York, an optional “Lavender Graduation” ceremony is offered for gay grads to walk amongst their peers (in addition to the regular graduation commencement).
An LGBT-only high school provides a safe haven for anti-gay bullying victims and students with unsupportive family members. But if a non-victimized student enrolls in an all-LGBT school, or stays in an all-LGBT dorm, is the education and experience they receive as good as—or better—than a traditional inclusive environment? Does the “boys are less distracted if girls are removed” method of single-sex schools apply? Or, even more perplexing, would a room full of gay and lesbian students—attracted to each other, of course (can you imagine?)—be equally distracting? The dating odds would feel more like heterosexual odds, at least. But how important is it to be attracted to the people in your classroom? Or your dorm?
If I had attended an all-LGBT high school, it's hard to say whether my grades would have slipped while my dating life sky-rocketed, or if I would have been more challenged and supported in a classroom full of my “peers.” If these schools existed in the South (where I attended high school, undergraduate college and graduate school), would an all-LGBT student body attract outside violence? And from a civil rights standpoint, is segregation based on difference ever really the answer?
An all-LGBT high school is much easier for me to accept (for safe haven reasons) than an all-LGBT college experience. The idea of an all-gay dorm or graduation seems a little segregation-y. Apparently, I'm not alone. Scores of Staten Island College students protested over the “Lavender Graduation,” which they felt was unnecessary and kind of...weird. According to at least one senior, an all-LGBT ceremony was discriminatory, at most, and a little peculiar, at best. After all, is someone really your equal because they are gay, bi or trans, or do you have more in common with students in your individual program?
Despite the appeal of an LGBT-only college dorm, I'm glad I had the inclusive experience of a co-ed, all-sexual-orientations college. I am still in touch with my best friends—both straight and gay—from high school and college, and I would not have missed meeting them for the world.