Meeting LGBT Students’ Challenges

Having come out as gay in my teens, I sought to learn as much as I could from the available literature about sexual orientation and how it relates to identity development. The chance to pursue a career in psychology, one which would allow me to work with LGBT people and influence social thought on these issues, was too exciting to pass up. Like many of my lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT)-and probably heterosexual colleagues at graduate school, my motivation to study psychology is largely personal.

LGBT graduate students who choose to pursue LGBT-related study topics may face unique challenges. 

For example:

  1. Outing oneself as a member of the LGBT community can be risky for many individuals in professional settings —like I soon learned that identifying myself as gay when I began my master’s program would likely impact how others saw me for the duration of my education.
  2. Certain biases, such as sexual and gender minority status, can be highly stressful for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. One manifestation of this bias may be the belief that research focusing on LGBT topics is not sufficient to generate a successful academic career. To convince people that they are capable scholars, some LGBT students interested in LGBT-related topics conduct research in non-LGBT-related areas.
  3. LGBT students often need extra support in dealing with the additional factors they encounter while negotiating a diverse identity in graduate school. Additionally, LGBT undergrads should be offered specific support services, such as counseling centers and residence halls that are identified as safe spaces for LGBT students.