Even on Welcoming Campuses, LGBT Students Face Hurdles to College Completion

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Colleges across the US have made major strides in their efforts to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.

But a recent New York Times op-ed published by a University of Mississippi grad provides an important reminder that much work still needs to be done.

By his own admission, Dylan Lewis “thrived in college.” At the University of Mississippi he finally felt free to be himself. Lewis joined the student government, led campus tours, and felt safe and supported.

Yet despite a welcoming campus, Lewis— like many LGBT youth — faced unique challenges on his path to college completion.

“Supporting myself through school was a huge challenge, as it is for many LGBT students who are estranged from their families,” wrote Lewis, who graduated from college this spring with a journalism degree. “…Many universities, like my own, are safe havens for gay students, but few administrations seem to be aware of how many LGBT students struggle to make ends meet without family support.”

According to a 2017 national survey by the Human Rights Commission, a third of LGBT youth ages 13 to 17 say their family is not accepting of LGBT people.

In his column, Lewis shared how a strained relationship with his mother affected his college experience.

Here are a two of the major hurdles he faced:

Applying for financial aid: “Undergraduates must apply for federal aid using their parents’ tax and income information, but LGBT students who are alienated from their families can’t always get that information,” Lewis wrote. “The process to verify that I was independent required that I provide concrete evidence of a significantly ‘broken relationship’ with my family.”

Obtaining health care: “My mother had taken me off her health insurance. Ole Miss provides free medical care, but it doesn’t cover prescriptions,” Lewis noted. “So I stopped seeing my psychologist and taking depression medication. I quit going to the eye doctor and the dentist.”

Lewis is currently teaching at a Houston public school with Teach for America. He hopes to one day create an Ole Miss scholarship for LGBT students facing similar challenges, Lewis told Hotty Toddy.

“I just want to give back. Ole Miss has given me so much. I hope that through this article, people can see that even someone like myself who was involved in all these things and did all these things, that I was still so broken inside,” Lewis told the online publication, which covers Ole Miss and the surrounding community. “There are kids out there going through the same thing, and they just want help, and I want to give that to them.”

Read the full op-ed.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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