USC attracts queer students with high rankings
8/29/2011 9:07 AM
By JACKIE CHEN · Daily Trojan
USC’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Student Resource Center has seen 10 times more transgendered students visit the center this year than in previous years.
Increased activity in the USC LGBT community can be attributed to high national rankings of gay friendliness, said Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Student Resource Center.
Vigil said since the center was founded in 2005, USC has become one of the top schools for LGBT students.
USC received a perfect score on the campus climate index of gay friendliness for the fifth consecutive year from Campus Pride this summer, a nonprofit resource for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender college or college-bound students.
The campus climate index score is determined by a series of more than 50 questions that universities answer. Campus Pride’s website said questions fall into eight categories that “contribute to a more inclusive, welcoming and respectful LGBT and Ally campus.”
Out of 300 universities, USC was one of 33 schools that received a perfect score of five stars.
“LGBT students feel more comfortable applying to USC because of the rankings we’ve gotten from various organizations,” Vigil said.
He said he plans to lobby for more inclusive transgendered policies this year.
“Normally we have one or two students come in during the academic year, but we’ve had a dramatic increase,” Vigil said. “We have more transgendered students on campus than ever before and I want to make sure they feel comfortable and safe.”
Because USC has no formal housing policy for transgendered students, requests are currently handled on a case-by-case basis.
Tweleve buildings on campus have gender-neutral bathrooms, for those in the process of transitioning, but Vigil said the number will continue to increase.
“Luckily, as we continue to construct new buildings, the American Disabilities Act requires accessible bathrooms, which are usually also gender neutral,” Vigil said. “This happens whenever we build anything new or refurbish a building,”
The previous student health insurance did not address hormone therapy for transgendered students. Aetna Student Health insurance, which USC switched to last fall, provides deductibles for hormone therapy.
The Queer and Ally Student Assembly will also hold a talk about transgendered people at the School of Social Work for the first time later this semester, Vigil said.
“We hope students in the school, when they go on their lunch break, will come in and learn about how to work with transgendered people because this is relevant to their future professions,” Vigil said. “We’re also hoping to have more transgendered content in classes.”
QuASA co-hosted a panel about the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in February attracted had a full room.
QuASA began to push for transgendered education programs in 2008 and began to hold Gender Justice Week, which is now Gender Justice Month, each November to raise awareness about gender identity and expression.
Vigil also said the LGBT center was calling itself the “LGBTQ center” in marketing materials, and might change its name formally in the future.
“We have been adding the Q [to LGBT] in our marketing materials because more and more students identify as queer,” Vigil said. “Also, the ‘Q’ can stand for queer and questioning, so we try to use it to be more inclusive.”
Vigil said the center will work to bolster programs started last year, such as Greek Chat, a confidential monthly discussion group for out, closeted and questioning members of the Greek community, and monthly “Bi-chats,” for bisexual or bi-curious students.
“We’re noticing more and more students identifying as bi and want to be as inclusive as possible with our programming,” Vigil said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get as many people coming to Bi-chats as we wanted last year, so we’re hoping to advertise them better.”
The LGBT Student Resource Center facilitates several other programs, including Freshman Advocacy Board, to address LGBT students’ transition to college; weekly confidential discussion group University Rap, or uRap; Generation Queer, a weekend retreat for first-year LGBT students; Peer Mentoring and the Speakers’ Bureau, which sponsors discussions on LGBT awareness.
The LGBT Student Resource Center also helps manage the Rainbow Floor, a residential community in Century Apartments for LGBT students.
Rainbow Floor Residential Adviser Riss Edmond, a senior majoring in animation, said the floor is crucial for students.
“It provides a community for LGBT students,” Emond said. “They need support around, and we have a lot of support here.”
Rainbow Floor resident Stephano Di Paola, a senior majoring in art history, said he was grateful USC had the resources to maintain such an active LGBT center.
“We have the ability to put out these programs,” Di Paola said. “QuASA also provides a lot of events, support and attention that makes our community very
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