22 SES 14 D, Non-traditional Students and Diversity
In regards to the LGBTQ+ community, individuals tend to wait to “come out” until they are in college (Beemyn, & Rankin, 2011). This can be due to moving to a location that may be more accepting or learning more about the LGBTQ+ community through meeting other individuals (Beemyn, & Rankin, 2011). Coming to the United States potentially provides international students with the opportunity to “develop and explore in a supportive environment” that may not be available in their home country (Valosik, 2015, p. 48).
Students tend to experiment with various identities as they develop (Morgan et al., 2011). It may become potentially difficult for individuals to navigate their identities as a result of the social and political climate at their institution of higher education (Morgan et al., 2011). Students that hold multiple intersecting identities may potentially face forms of discrimination and oppression in regards to all of the identities that they hold (Harley, Nowak, Gassaway, & Savage, 2002). Individuals tend to experience different forms of marginalization when they have multiple intersecting identities such as sexual, gender, and race (Kulick, Wernick, Woodford, & Renn, 2017).
Looking specifically at LGB international students and their interactions with a campus environment and experiences, the Unifying Model of Sexual Identity Development is the theoretical model that will be reviewed in terms of this study.
The Unifying Model of Sexual Identity Development consists of two parallel elements of development: individual sexual identity development and social identity process (Dillon, Worthington, & Moradi, 2011). Dillon et al. (2011) defined sexual identity development as “the individual and social processes by which persons acknowledge and define their sexual needs, values, sexual orientation, preferences for sexual activities, modes of sexual expression, and characteristics of sexual partners” (p. 657). Whether progressing through individual sexual identity development or the social identity process, sexual identity development consists of five statuses: compulsory heterosexuality, active exploration, diffusion, deepening and commitment, and synthesis. Compulsory heterosexuality applies to any individual that accepts the societal notion that heterosexuality is innate and adheres to cultural norms (Dillon et al., 2011). Transitioning from the status is considered permanent due to due to a perceived evolution of an individual’s understanding of sexual identity development (Dillon et al., 2011). Individuals within the compulsory heterosexuality status are likely to perceive others as heterosexual and to hold prejudices against individuals holding sexual minority identities (Dillon et al., 2011). Active exploration is the “purposeful exploration, evaluation, or experimentation of one’s sexual needs, values orientation and/or preferences for activities, partner characteristics, or modes of sexual expression” (Dillon et al., 2011, p. 660). Active exploration can be conducted through either cognitive or behavioral actions. It must, however, be a purposeful means of exploring sexual identity in an effort to meet an established goal (Dillon et al., 2011). Active exploration is unique to each individual and may vary in term of an individual’s experiences and environment. Diffusion is the “absence of commitment and of systematic exploration” (Dillon et al., 2011, p. 662). There are two forms of diffusion: “diffused diffusion” and “carefree diffusion.” Carefree diffusion consists of having little concern about not having strong commitments (Dillon et al., 2011). Diffused diffusion is associated with experiencing stress about not having commitments (Dillon et al., 2011). Individuals within this status are experiencing an increase in their commitment to their identity (Dillon et al., 2011). Within this status, individuals have an increased likelihood of questioning the societal construct of heterosexuality being the norm (Dillon et al., 2011). Within the status of synthesis, individuals begin to align their identity and beliefs with their attitudes and behaviors (Dillon et al., 2011).
This study utilizes a qualitative approach with semi-structured in-person interviews with participants that identify as LGBTQ International students. This study focuses on three research questions: What are the experiences of LGBTQ International Students? What impact do specific resources have on the on-campus experiences of LGBTQ International students? What barriers do students with intersecting identities (LGBTQ Male or Female International students) face on campus? With this population of students being understudied in the larger body of literature, the result of this research will allow for institutional staff and future researchers to gain additional insight into the experiences and outcomes of international students that identify as a member of the LGBTQ community. Through using a qualitative approach, this research will provide an understanding of how this population of students interact with the campus environment, how they perceive the campus climate, and what impact their interaction and perceptions have on their performance and overall outcomes.
Preliminary findings suggest four emerging themes. The themes are safety, mental health, alienation, and dialog. Safety is the feeling of safety in public and on campus as an international student and an LGBTQIA individual. Mental health is based on the transition from their home country to the United States, the development of sexual orientation identities, interacting with society, and cultural differences. The transition has led many to experience depression and anxiety based on the cultural differences and stress of identity development in an area that may not be supportive of their identities. Alienation consists of avoiding interactions with others, members of shared identities and the general public, for fear of safety and social exclusion. Dialog is the desire to engage in a dialog with others on the campus and within the community in an effort to develop awareness and acceptance. Potential policy implications for this study, based on preliminary findings, include a recommendation for institutions of higher education to develop resources for LGBTQIA International Students within the International Student Services. Through the creation of LGBTQIA related resources specific to international students, international students will have the opportunity to connect with other international students with similar identities, build connections, have dedicated staff that can provide support, and have a sense of belonging. With regard to the campus community, educational workshops and programming are recommended as a way to educate the campus on different cultures and identities, challenging stereotypes.
Beemyn, G., & Rankin, S. (2011). Introduction to the special issue on LGBTQ campus experiences. Journal of Homosexuality, 58(9), 1159-1164. doi: 10.1080/00918369.2011.605728 Bernert, D. J., Ding, K., & Hoban, M. T. (2012). Sexual and substance use behaviors of college students with disabilities. American Journal of Health Behavior, 36(4), 459-471. doi: 10.5993/AJHB.36.4.3 Dillon, F. R., Worthington, R. L., & Moradi, B. (2011). Sexual identity as a universal process. In S. J. Schwartz, K. Luyckx, & V. L. Vignoles (Eds.) Handbook of identity theory and research (pp. 649-670). New York: Springer. Harley, D. A., Nowak, T. M., Gassaway, L. J., & Savage, T. A. (2002). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender college student with disabilities: A look at multiple cultural minorities. Psychology in the Schools, 39(5), 525-539. Kulick, A., Wernick, L. J., Woodford, M. R., & Renn, K. (2017). Heterosexism, depression, and campus engagement among LGBTQ college students: Intersectional differences and opportunities for healing. Journal of Homosexuality, 64(8), 1125-1141. doi: 10.1080/00918369.2016.1242333 Morgan, J. J., Mancl, D. B., Kaffar, B. J., & Ferreira, D. (2011). Creating safe environments for students with disabilities who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Intervention in School & Clinic, 47(1), 3-13. doi: 10.1177/1053451211406546 Valosik, V. (2015). Supporting LGBT International students. International Educator, 48-51.
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