5 Ways Parents Can Support Their LGBTQ+ College Student


Sending a child off to college is a big, emotional step for any family. Whether your child is going to live on campus or live at home and commute, this is a new phase that will bring changes, challenges, and hopefully a lot of joy. We hope these tips will help ease the transition and make sure you and your LGBTQ+ child have a fulfilling and positive experience.

Research the school

It goes without saying that no two colleges are alike. Research can help your child narrow down their options if they haven’t chosen a school yet, or get a good sense of the resources available to them at their chosen school. Check out university websites and look for activities, clubs, and events geared towards LGBTQ+ students. Websites such as Campus Pride and Best Colleges offer rankings and statistics related to LGBTQ+ student issues at U.S. universities. These days, many colleges have an LGBTQ+ student center, and you can use this online search tool to find out if your child’s school has one. 

You can also encourage your child to reach out to the student involvement or campus life office to ask about LGBTQ+ student groups. If there isn’t one already, it usually takes a few other students and an advisor to get started. 

Be supportive and encouraging as they change and grow

College is a time for experimentation and self-exploration. Being in a new setting with people that didn’t know them in high school can be a fresh start for many LGBTQ+ students. This is especially true if high school was difficult. Given this new freedom, don’t be surprised if they come home in between semesters with new ideas about their identity. 

For example, your trans son who preferred “he/him” pronouns might decide that “they” suits them better. Or your daughter who identified as bisexual in high school is now saying she’s a lesbian. As parents, the best thing you can do is continue to be supportive and positive, even if you’re left reeling from more changes just when you had gotten used to how things were. Sexual orientation and gender identity is one part of who they are. It’s important to remember, they’re still the same child you’ve always loved. 

Plan for safety

We never want to imagine something bad happening to our kids while they’re away at school, but sexual assault is unfortunately still a common and underreported crime on college campuses. The risk is greater for women and trans, non-binary, and genderqueer people (5)

Make sure you talk to your child about the risks and consider buying them keychain pepper spray or a personal alarm. There are also a number of apps for smartphones that can make it easier to get help or report a crime. 

Lastly, read up on the school’s code of conduct and student safety policy, as well as any relevant state laws that protect against discrimination or harassment of LGBTQ+ people.

Have the sex talk

This is awkward, we know, but don’t miss the opportunity to be the person your child can turn to with questions about sex and sexual health. You can shape this discussion however you’d like, but there are lots of helpful resources available that will give you confidence to navigate a tricky subject. In our parent guides on our website we have a special section about Relationships and Dating for parents of LGBQ+ kids and trans kids.

Build a good support network for yourself

We all worry about our kids, and that doesn’t end when they go to college. It’s a little easier to ease your fears when they’re living with you, but once they leave, you might be overwhelmed by anxiety. Make sure you’re taking care of your own mental health in whatever way is right for you.

Maybe you join your local chapter of PFLAG to meet other parents of LGBTQ+ kids or revisit the Strong Family Alliance website to share your story and read other parents’ stories. You might set up a regular family video call with your college student to check in, and plan fun activities for when they come home. Even a weekly coffee date with a close friend can do wonders for your mental health. 

The transition to college for your LGBTQ+ child is bound to be exciting and scary for both of you. However, with a little effort and a lot of love, the journey will be a positive one.


  1. Campus Pride – https://www.campuspride.org/ 
  2. LGBTQ+ Campus “Find an LGBTQ+ Campus Center”  – https://www.lgbtcampus.org/find-an-lgbtq-campus-center
  3. Best Colleges “LGBTQ+ Student Guide”  – https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/lgbtq-student-guide/
  4. My Kid is Gay “10 Ways to Prepare Your LGBTQ+ Kid for College” – https://www.mykidisgay.com/blog/10-ways-to-prepare-your-lgbtq-kid-for-college
  5. Best Colleges “Sexual Assault on Campus” https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/sexual-assault-on-campus/ 
  6. Power to Decide “Talking to LGBTQ+ Teens about Sex and Relationships https://powertodecide.org/news/talking-lgbtq-teens-about-sex-and-relationships