From Post-It notes with offensive terms stuck on dorm room doors to comments hurled across hallways or blasted out on social media, a new study has revealed that LGBTQ students are significantly more likely to face bullying at Christian colleges than they are at non-Christian schools.
Dan Avery of NBC News has reported that LGBTQ college students face dramatically more “bullying and harassment, and are far more likely to experience isolation, depression and harm than their straight classmates, according to a new survey commissioned by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, or REAP, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ students at taxpayer-funded religious colleges and universities.”
To compile the survey, researchers with the company College Pulse polled 3,000 full-time students at 134 different colleges and universities between Jan. 28 and Feb. 6 of this year.
According to Avery, researchers working with the group found that “queer students were three times more likely to report depression and anxiety and three times more likely to have seriously considered suicide.”
“More than 1 in 10 (12%) also reported that their school suggested they receive counseling, suggested or mandated that they undergo ‘conversion therapy,’ revoked their financial aid or scholarships or took other actions against them as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Avery reported.
Gender-nonconforming students faced the greatest challenges at Christian schools. The study revealed 22% of nonbinary students said they had experienced bullying or harassment, compared to 5% of cisgender students.
Equally alarming: 14% of nonbinary college students at Christian schools reported being sexually assaulted during their time in school, compared to 2% of their cisgender peers.
The report also revealed that nearly one-fifth of LGBTQ students on Christian campuses had yet to come out. A full 19% of those surveyed admitted that they hadn’t told anyone at school about their orientation or identity.
In an interview with Avery, REAP Director Paul Southwick said, “The question we’re always asked is, ‘Why would an LGBTQ student go to a Christian college?’”
But Southwick feels that kneejerk question borders on gaslighting and stems from the assumption that they don’t belong there. On the contrary, Southwick said there will always be queer students at Christian colleges “because there have always been young queer people in those Christian communities.”
Southwick told Avery that his goal in conducting the study wasn’t to punish these schools, but rather to help “17-year-olds [who] don’t have the agency to choose their school” and to promote reform and progress within the colleges to make them more accepting of all students.
“The aim is to apply pressure, from within and without, to get them to change,” Southwick said.