New Report Shines a Light on Anti-LGBTQ+ Culture in Christian Colleges

REAP and College Pulse have released a report identifying the anti-LGBTQ+ culture that is so common on the campuses of Christian colleges.

The Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP) and College Pulse have joined forces to identify how anti-LGBTQ+ culture is affecting students at Christian colleges. (Image credit: REAP)
The Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP) and College Pulse have joined forces to identify how anti-LGBTQ+ culture is affecting students at Christian colleges. (Image credit: REAP)

Sexual and gender minority students enrolled at many Christian colleges and universities experience more harm, more isolation, and less inclusion on their campus, leaving them with starkly different mental health outcomes and college experiences than their straight peers, according to a report released today by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP) and College Pulse.

“Not only are LGBTQ+ students more likely to feel like they do not belong to their campus community, they are also more likely to experience disciplinary action from their institutions themselves. Some face mandatory counselling, reparative therapy, and loss of campus privileges when their identities are brought to the attention of campus administration,” said Director of REAP Paul Carlos Southwick. “What’s more: This discrimination and abuse is funded by taxpayers. These findings should serve as a wake-up call for all higher education stakeholders to address the ongoing abuses taking place at publicly funded institutions.”

The report, “The LGBTQ+ Student Divide: the State of Sexual and Gender Minority Students at Taxpayer-Funded Christian Colleges,” represents a sample of 3,000 full-time students currently enrolled in four-year degree programs at Christian colleges and universities that explicitly discriminate against LGBTQ+ students. Students were surveyed via the College Pulse mobile app and web portal, and the survey was weighted to be nationally representative of Christian colleges and universities. Among the key takeaways:

  • More than 1 in 10 students self-identifies as a sexual minority, and 2 percent of students identify as a gender minority. Among those who attend Christian colleges and universities, around 12 percent of students self-identify as non-heterosexual. With a more broad definition that encompasses self-identification and any attraction or experience that is not between a heterosexual female and a heterosexual male, the number of non-heterosexual students more than doubles to 30 percent. When students were asked to select their gender, 2 percent of students identified as either non-binary, genderqueer, agender, transgender, or otherwise non-cisgender.
  • Gender minority students are seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted on their Christian campus than cisgender students.
  • Gender minority students are twice as likely to be subjected to disciplinary action by their Christian college than cisgender students.
  • Sexual and gender minority students are 15 times more likely to report their sexuality or gender identity has prevented them from feeling accepted by others on their college campus compared to their peers. They are also more likely to say their gender or sexual identity has prevented them from holding leadership positions, living on campus, and joining campus groups compared to their straight peers.
  • Sexual minority students experience three times the harms faced by straight students. Students were asked about 11 potential harms they may have experienced during college, such as depression, anxiety, bullying, harassment, isolation, sexual assault, or substance abuse. Students self-identifying as sexual minorities were significantly more like to say they have experienced harm compared to heterosexual students. For instance, 13 percent of heterosexual students say they experienced four or more harms from this list, while 37 percent of sexual minority students experienced the same.
  • Sexual minority students are three times more likely to experience depression and anxiety compared to heterosexual students. They are also three times more likely to have seriously considered suicide or had an eating disorder, and twice as likely to report loneliness compared to their straight peers.
  • Gender minority students are nearly five times more likely to experience bullying or harassment. Sexual minority students are twice as likely to experience bullying or harassment. Five percent of cisgender students reported bullying or harassment while 24 percent of gender minority students reported bullying or harassment. Eleven percent of sexual minority students reported bullying on their college campus. Moreover, among students who were bullied, 85 percent of those who self-identify as non-straight reported the bullying had come from someone at their college or university.
  • Sexual and gender minority students are more likely to say the source of their depression and anxiety stems from their gender or sexual identity. Among those who say they have experienced depression or anxiety, sexual and gender minority students were most likely to say the source of their depression or anxiety was due to their gender or sexual identity. For example, 41 percent of both sexual and gender minority students say their sexual identity is the source of their depression.

“Every year, millions of high school seniors make decisions about which college they’ll attend. While students and families take into account a variety of factors in their decision, what they all have in common is the hope for a good education and a path to a bright future,” said College Pulse Co-Founder and CEO Terren Klein. “Our work is about elevating the voice of every student to ensure they have an equal opportunity to fulfill that hope.”

Read the report’s full findings here.

About the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP)

REAP empowers queer, trans and non-binary students at religious colleges, universities and schools where discrimination and abuse is practiced using taxpayer money. As a program sponsored by the national nonprofit Soulforce, REAP elevates the experiences of sexual and gender minority students through civil rights litigation, documentary film, oral history, research and public policy. For more information, visit www.thereap.org

About College Pulse

College Pulse is a survey research and analytics company dedicated to understanding the attitudes, preferences and behaviors of today’s college students. College Pulse offers custom data-driven marketing and research solutions, utilizing its unique American College Student Panel™ that includes over 485,000 undergraduate college student respondents from more than 1,500 two- and four-year colleges and universities in all 50 states. For more information, visit https://collegepulse.com/ or College Pulse’s social Twitter account @CollegeInsights.

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