Gay And Transgender Student Life Improved at Rutgers In Wake Of Clementi Suicide

The Rutgers Homophile League, founded in 1969, was only the nation’s second gay academic organization. Though possessing a history of LGBT inclusiveness, Rutgers University was haunted by the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi that painted the college as  place of intolerance. Thanks to stepped-up efforts from its administration and campus community, students now have a wealth of resources available to them including specialized housing, ally training programs and a gay fraternity.

While there are still traces of homophobia on campus, the general atmosphere remains overwhelmingly positive and welcoming, as illustrated in the case of a worried transgender student. The New York Times reports:

In 2011, shortly before the start of her first year at Rutgers, Nicole Margolies was talking with a housing supervisor when she blurted out: “I’m transgender, and I don’t know what to do about it. Where do I go?” Nick, as the student is now known, feared he might not even be allowed on campus. Instead, he said, when he got there the name on his dorm room door was up-to-date. His professors addressed him as “he.” And no one made him feel it was anything other than normal.

“Boom,” he said. “Mind blown.”

Obviously the bad publicity generated by Clementi’s sucide after his roommate put his personal life on blast was a major factor in Rutgers’ renewed efforts, but the two years since his death have also seen widespread change for the LGBT community, such as the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” President Obama’s public support for same-sex marriage and its legalization in nearby New York.

This queering of society has led to gender and sexuality becoming something of a non-issue at Rutgers. To wit, the Rainbow Perspectives dorm houses LGBT students as well as straight students who “like the company” while the gay fraternity Delta Lambda Phi now has its first straight and transgender members.

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One Comment

  • Dan

    I was co-president of the Rutgers Lesbian/Gay Alliance in the mid-80s, and we challenged the school administration to take seriously our concerns. And they did. When I went back a few years ago I was blown away by the amount of support offered by each campus and by the administration. The main organization had changed their name to be more inclusive (BIGLARU), and there were many more adjunct student organizations, as well as a gay student publication. I was most impressed with the literal parade of openly-GLBT staff who were introduced at the beginning of the semester at a social for GLBT students. Rutgers, in my opinion, is a standard-bearer for how a campus should support its GLBT students and staff.

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